Plans for Moorfields Eye Hospital Foundation Trust to open an eye clinic at a hospital in Kent have been paused after another trust complained that no procurement process had taken place.

HSJ has discovered that King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust has written a legal letter to Dartford, Swanley and Gravesham Clinical Commissioning Group in the past few weeks stating that a procurement process should take place to determine the provision of ophthalmology services for Dartford and Gravesham Trust.

King’s took over ophthalmology services to the patients from the Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley area in October last year when South London Healthcare Trust was dissolved.

Currently the majority of Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley patients travel to Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup for ophthalmology treatment. However, the CCG believed a local service could be set up at Dartford’s Darent Valley Hospital, saving money.

The CCG’s board papers from August state: “The vast majority of Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley patients attend south London for ophthalmology treatment, and King’s will be taking over all ophthalmology services from south London.

“The transfer to King’s will have a number of impacts for Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley, not least a financial impact due to the higher market forces factor paid to King’s. There is also a potential risk that King’s will look to centralise the ophthalmology service on one or two sites, which may affect provision at Sidcup. For these reasons, therefore, it makes sense to consider other options for ophthalmology.”

Negotiations had appeared to reach a late stage and Moorfields had already started advertising for clinicians on NHS Jobs to help set up the service in Dartford.

A spokeswoman for King’s confirmed the trust was “in correspondence with Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG regarding the procurement of ophthalmology services at Dartford and Gravesham Trust”.

The question of whether it was necessary to go out to procurement for the ophthalmology service was raised at the August meeting. It was concluded that “as all providers locally are open to Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley patients (including independent sector providers) this will not be necessary”.

A spokesman for the CCG confirmed that it had received a letter from King’s and was now seeking legal advice.