Published: 12/09/2002, Volume II2, No. 5822 Page 4

Operations Abroad, a commercial company launched with much fanfare to provide operations overseas, will not be invited to tender by the health service after a 'corporate diligence' check.

The company, a subsidiary of Stockport-based Sterling Travel Insurance Services, was set up to 'offer health authorities a solution to the many organisational problems arising from the change in government policy on sending NHS patients overseas'.

It caused widespread comment in the national press earlier this year when it flew a patient and a clutch of journalists to the Interbalkan European Medical Centre, in Thessaloniki, Greece, run by the private sector Athens Medical Group.

But a spokeswoman for the Department of Health this week said: 'Following a corporate diligence process the DoH has advised the NHS's lead commissioners for overseas treatment that they should not invite Operations Abroad to tender for contracts to treat NHS patients overseas.'

She added that it would be 'inappropriate to comment further'.

Operations Abroad managing director Ian Cook said: 'We have not had notification of that yet because our lawyers are disputing what they're talking about.

'We are disputing because We are a new company - there is no background because we haven't done any business yet. Our lawyers are looking at the situation.'