The Department of Health has named Netcare and Partnership Health Group - in partnership with Alliance Medical - as preferred bidders for its controversial integrated clinical assessment and treatment services in Manchester, HSJhas learnt.

The Department of Health has named Netcare and Partnership Health Group - in partnership with Alliance Medical - as preferred bidders for its controversial integrated clinical assessment and treatment services in Manchester, HSJhas learnt.

The proposed contract has been dogged by criticism from local stakeholders in recent months as concerns were raised that awarding Netcare the contract would be anti-competitive (news, page 8, 20 July).

If Netcare wins the five-year deal to provide ICATS it would be in a position to assess patients for surgery and then refer them to its own Greater Manchester surgical centre for treatment. The deal will see Netcare providing 220,000 outpatient, diagnostic and surgical services in seven locations including Carlisle, Preston, FyldeCoast, Ulverston, Pendle, Ormskirk and Workington.

HSJunderstands that in response to local concerns the DoH has decided to ensure that preferred bidder status for the two parts of the contract are awarded to different providers.

As HSJwent to press, the DoH was also set to name UK Specialist Hospitals - formerly part of the New York Presbyterian Hospitals group - as preferred bidder for a second-wave elective independent treatment centre in the South West.

UKSH will operate an ITC based in North Bristol which will carry out 25,000 procedures a year over five years.

Last month Bupa was named preferred bidder for two elective ITC schemes in the North East and Cheshire and Merseyside.

Trusts should start reporting their progress towards meeting the 18-week referral to treatment target in October, the Department of Health has said.

It has asked trusts to report the referral to treatment waiting times for inpatients and day cases voluntarily from October.

From November, trusts have been asked to report finished treatment times for outpatients in trauma and orthopaedics and cardiology, as well as total prospective waits for all patients added to lists from 1 November.

Recording the figures becomes mandatory from January 2007, en routeto the December 2008 18-week target.