A £257m contract with an independent company to provide 450,000 diagnostic procedures a year may not start until September, five months behind schedule.

HSJ has learned that at least one primary care trust in the South West and North West have been told to plan for a September start date for the contract with Atos Origin.

The contract was delayed just days before it was due to start in April because of concerns about work done by Atos under an interim contract in the North West. This led to patients being recalled for ultrasound scans.

The Department of Health and Atos have been unable to give a start date for the contract, but Gloucestershire PCT was told as early as April to plan for a September start.

A DoH spokesman said: 'Services will start only when conditions in the contract guaranteeing the quality and safety have been met. Patient safety and quality of healthcare provision are our foremost priorities at all times.'

The five-year contract provides services such as MRI, ultrasound and X-rays.