FINANCE: The takeover of 20 practices by a family run GP firm is being examined by the Office of Fair Trading and Cooperation and Competition Panel.

The Merseyside PCT cluster last month said that SSP Health was the preferred bidder for contracts to run the practices, following a tender.

SSP Health, run by Shikha and Sanjay Pitalia, currently either runs or jointly runs practices across the North West, which it says serve more than 50,000 patients. They cover parts of Manchester, Liverpool, Bolton, Wigan, St Helens and Salford.

The OFT has published an “invitation to comment” on the arrangement as a merger which ended on 5 December. It said: “The OFT is seeking to ascertain whether it has jurisdiction to investigate this/these transaction(s) under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002 and, if so, whether the creation of that/those relevant merger situation(s) may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market of markets in the United Kingdom.”

Meanwhile, NHS Merseyside published a statement revealing the Cooperation and Competition Panel was looking at the deal.

It says: “This appointment is subject to settlement of contractual terms and approval by the Cooperation and Competition panel (CCP). A mobilisation plan will be agreed with commissioners and implemented by the new provider to ensure the new service is delivered from 1st February 2013.

”SSP Health Ltd is led by Dr Shikha Pitalia and Dr Sanjay Pitalia, who are both practising GPs. SSP Health currently manages 17 general practices across Merseyside and Greater Manchester. SSP Health is an independent contractor providing GP services in the same way as other GP practices across the UK.

“The focus of this procurement process has been about improving the quality of patient care. The proposal from SSP Health was judged to be the strongest bid, with evidence of their experience in service delivery, a clear focus on quality and service improvement and a commitment to partnership and engagement, with patients and staff.

“Staff employed in these GP practices will transfer their employment to the new provider in accordance with TUPE arrangements and on the same contractual terms and conditions held with their previous employer.”