The NHS competition watchdog is investigating the trust’s award of two dialysis contracts, after a bidder accused it of a “blatant attempt to retain the incumbent provider”.

The NHS Cooperation and Competition Panel began a probe into the contract tender last week, in response to a complaint by private sector provider Renal Services Ltd.

In a letter to the panel, Renal Services director and chief executive officer Stefano Ciampolini claimed that the trust’s existing dialysis provider – Diaverum Ltd – had won the deal despite being more expensive and having “an inferior record of service quality”.

“In our view, this exercise has been a blatant attempt to retain the incumbent provider by any means,” he wrote.

“By awarding this contract to Diaverum, the trust has, in effect caused an additional cost to the public purse of approximately £1m+ over the life of the contract [and] the people of Nottingham to receive treatment for a chronic disease from a provider with an inferior record of service quality and deliverability.”

However, Diaverum UK managing director Michael Hartnett told HSJ that the firm took “serious issue” with Mr Ciampolini’s letter, and they were preparing a detailed rebuttal for the CCP.

Mr Ciampolini estimated his company’s bid would have saved the trust between £979,000 and £1.3m on the eight-year deal to provide dialysis in a unit able to accommodate up to 20 stations. He stated that Renal Services had received full marks for price, but had been “severely marked down” on quality of service.

He wrote: “Overall, the reasons provided at the debrief meeting for our low scoring in these categories appeared to be based on Diaverum having ‘provided more detail in their bid document’.”

While his company’s clinics had “continually, and without exception” received 100 per cent pass rates from the Care Quality Commission, Diaverum’s Nottingham clinic had been “failed” by the watchdog last November on three out of five areas tested, he claimed.

He added: “The overall impression of the [debrief] meeting [with NUHT] was that three of those present were engaged in a co-ordinated attempt to justify their decision by referring only to the exact text of the final bid document: they appeared to be totally discounting the reality on the ground of the site visits, and evidence of our high reputation with (a) nephrologists and management at neighbouring trusts and (b) official bodies such as the Care Quality Commission.”

Mr Hartnett said the letter contained “very misleading statements” and “factual innaccuracies”, and that Diaverum UK’s lawyers would be in contact with Renal Services.

He added: “We take serious issue with much of the letter, and its representation of Diaverum. We are preparing a quite detailed response for the CCP.”

An NUHT spokesman said: “The trust is currently working co-operatively with the CCP and will be submitting a formal response to it during the next week. The trust understands that this will in due course be published by them on their website.”

CCP director Catherine Davies wrote that the investigation was to be completed by 21 May.