The Department of Health is reviewing plans to add private sector diagnostic capacity in five of its seven proposed schemes.

It announced the schemes in 2005 to help the NHS meet the 18-week referral to treatment target by December 2008.

But HSJ understands changes to capacity plans that primary care trusts made in 2005, and fears about service quality from the providers, could mean the DoH will shelve outstanding schemes.

The diagnostics schemes have seen problems ever since the DoH selected bidders in August 2005 for contracts worth£1bn over five years.

InHealth Netcare was to deliver procedures including MRI scans, x-rays and ultrasound in London and the East of England, but has only managed to sign off on the London contract (see table below). Schemes in the North West and South West to be run by Atos Healthcare were scrapped in July by health minister Ben Bradshaw (for more background, click here).

In August 2006 BUPA dropped negotiations for the South East tranche of the diagnostic programme because it failed to agree 'acceptable' terms.

Clinicentre was selected as a new preferred bidder last November, but HSJ understands the contract will not go ahead.

The West Midlands diagnostics scheme with Care UK got the go-ahead after delays when the DoH questioned quality and safety of services. But Care UK in partnership with Alliance Medical will not win a second contract in the North East.

An NHS source close to the Atos Healthcare contract talks confirmed the government was 'unlikely' to go ahead with other schemes because less capacity was now needed.

A spokesperson said the DoH was working with the NHS to review the 'specifications' of the wave two independent sector treatment centre programme, which includes the diagnostics contracts.

'This exercise is ongoing, and expected to be completed in October. Once this process is complete, and all parties involved in negotiations have been informed of the outcomes, further information will be made available.'

Diagnostics deals - on or off?

North West Atos Healthcare Not going ahead
South West Atos Healthcare Not going ahead
West Midlands Care UK Started June 2007
London InHealth Netcare Started April 2007
East of England InHealth Netcare Not going ahead
North East Alliance Medical/Care UK* Not going ahead
South East Clinicentre

Not going ahead

*Joint venture