NHS providers which have formed partnerships with universities can better “resist” competition from the independent sector, according to a senior clinician.

The five academic health science centres were introduced following then health minister Lord Darzi’s High Quality Care for All report for the Department of Health in 2008.

One of these, Cambridge University Health Partners, includes Cambridge University and three other nearby foundation trusts which work together providing healthcare, education and training and research.

Speaking about competition in the NHS, partnership chair Sir Keith Peters said academic health science centres “will be in a better position to resist the worst elements of change” than most of the NHS.

He told HSJ it would be “difficult to imagine” independent sector providers making a case to take on significant services currently provided by partnership members whose relationship ensured services were better integrated than in other areas.

Professor Peters said: “It is not for me to say who can come in [to provide services] but our health partnership would look askance at anything affecting the alignment of healthcare across its members.”

Following the pause in the passage of the Health Bill, prime minister David Cameron said the regulator Monitor’s role was being changed so it “supported” integration rather than promoted competition. But the government has pressed on with plans to extend competition and last month announced some community services would be opened up to “any qualified provider”.

Sir Keith said academic health science centres could make a case that any loss of services to independent providers would affect the partnership’s benefits to patients. He said: “How is that [independent] provider going to discharge the teaching and research functions? How does it represent the needs of society?”

Matt James, chief executive of the H5 private hospitals alliance, said he would be “disappointed” if the centres resisted the government’s policy to open services to competition.

Mr James said: “I don’t think the formation of the academic health science centres, which are a highly privileged form of integration of services, was designed to stifle competition. They are there to make British healthcare more competitive and facilitate better use of resources and knowledge.”