• Oxfordshire joint health overview and scrutiny committee refers controversial specialist cancer scanning procurement to the health secretary
  • Oxford University Hospitals FT will keep PET-CT contract for Thames Valley until issues considered by Matt Hancock, a statement said
  • Comes after NHS England awarded scanning contract to private provider despite clinical concerns

A controversial decision to strip a leading trust of its scanning service has been referred to the health secretary.

Oxford University Hospitals FT lost its contract to provide specialist cancer scanning services in the Thames Valley, after a controversial procurement process run by NHS England.

In July, the private provider InHealth was announced as the preferred bidder to provide PET-CT scans in the region.

The award came despite concerns raised by the public, clinicians and local MPs that the new contract could create a two-tier service in which residents in Milton Keynes and Swindon are offered inferior scanning services from mobile units. There are also concerns that InHealth may not have the staff or expertise to fully deliver the contract.

The proposals would also mean that OUHT would lose its onsite scanning service at its Churchill Hospital and instead it would move to a GenesisCare facility four miles away.

Although NHS England has subsequently sought to secure a formal partnership between InHealth and OUHT to provide the scanning service, OUHT decided to refer the matter to the Oxfordshire joint health overview and scrutiny committee.

The committee decided this week to exercise its powers to refer the issue to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock.

A statement from OUHT said: “Due to the HOSC decision, no changes will be made to the current PET-CT service at the Churchill while this process is ongoing.” It is not yet clear under what terms the proposal has been referred to the secretary of state, or how long Matt Hancock will be given to respond.

Anneliese Dodd, MP for Oxford East, said: “The initial undertaking from NHSE [to InHealth] appears to be the reason for the current partnership. There is no clarity over how the partnership might develop into the future. That is unacceptable.”

Bruno Holthof, OUH chief executive, said: “I would like to thank the Oxfordshire HOSC for agreeing to our request to examine this issue.”

The Guardian reported this week that in August last year OUH was threatened by NHS England with a potential libel claim, for raising concerns about the contract deal. It also reported that the then NHS England chair Sir Malcolm Grant had phoned Mr Holthof to warn the trust against its own legal challenge over the contract deal, which it had considered. The legal challenge was dropped.