One of England’s most prestigious hospital trusts has been accused of conducting a £20m IT tender having already picked the winner.

Losing bidder Cerner wrote to Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust late last week calling for the process, to procure an electronic patient record system, to be scrapped and rerun.

The trust has insisted its procurement was “open and fair”.

Epic Systems and HP were named in April as preferred bidders to install a common platform for the Cambridge trust and Papworth Hospital Foundation Trust.

Cerner, whose Millennium system is among those installed in hospitals as part of the national programme for IT, claims it took part in the tender with “no realistic process of winning”.

Bids were understood to be around £20m. However Cerner’s letter, seen by HSJ, claims that the trust’s procurement process did not include price as a factor in the decision-making process.

During the procurement the shortlisting process was revised. Cerner’s managing director for Europe Alan Fowles said this favoured Epic and was “in clear breach of the ‘equal treatment’ principle”.

The letter said: “We find it difficult not to conclude that you had made a pre-determined decision to award the tender to Epic some time before you designed the procurement process; this, in turn, put every other vendor… with no realistic possibility of winning.”

Capsticks partner Justin Alford told HSJ similar disputes were becoming increasingly common. He said: “Historically there was a fear of getting unofficially blacklisted from that trust or the NHS [if firms complained about processes]. But that has changed in the last few years with changes in the global economic climate and fewer tenders around.”

A spokesman for Cambridge University Hospitals said: “The trust has run an open and fair OJEU [Official Journal of the European Union] competition in line with public procurement processes. The trust is continuing to proceed with the procurement process for eHospital.”