The NHS cancer screening programme has pulled out of a deal with former staff of the Improvement Foundation amid concerns about how much money the failed company still owes primary care trusts.

The Improvement Foundation ceased trading in February. The last set of accounts filed with Companies House - for the year to March 2009 - state the company is “in the process of being wound down on a solvent basis after the payment of all external creditors”.

That process is ongoing and HSJ has been made aware of a number of outstanding reimbursement claims from PCT managers who paid for training courses that were cancelled.

The foundation’s last set of accounts show that as of March 2009 it owed £5.2m but had cash balances of £7m.

Last month HSJ obtained a letter revealing plans for “previous members of the Improvement Foundation” to work on a cervical screening programme in the North West.

The letter, from North West Cervical Screening Quality Assurance Reference Centre director Lesley Turnbull, to PCT chief executives and public health directors, said the work would be carried out in Blackpool, Sefton and Manchester PCTs, as well as NHS Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale.

However, after questions from HSJ about claims of outstanding debt a spokesman for the screening programme said: “The deal isn’t going to go ahead because of some of the concerns raised by [HSJ’s] initial inquiry.”

He said “outstanding concerns” about the Improvement Foundation meant “we didn’t think it was really appropriate to carry on and we will consider the options as to whether we can deliver this with a different team”.

He added: “If those concerns are resolved perhaps we can revisit [the proposed contract].”

The 12 month contract would have been worth £200,000 and the work was to be led by former senior staff of the Improvement Foundation.

HSJ contacted two of the former staff who had been due to be involved in the contract. They expressed disappointment that the problems experienced by the foundation had led to the new contract being cancelled.

A statement issued via Armitage Jones - a corporate recovery organisation helping to wind down the Improvement Foundation’s business - said financial claims against the foundation were “being assessed”.

Partner Tony Armitage said: “I can confirm that all such claims which have not already been paid will be agreed and paid within the very near future.” He said managers could contact him at