A company run by husband and wife GPs has been named as preferred bidder to run 20 practices in Liverpool and Sefton.

SSP Health, run by Shikha and Sanjay Pitalia, 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.

It was last week announced the firm was the preferred bidder for the large tender by Liverpool and Sefton primary care trusts.

The contracts were advertised as worth £18.4m and lasting three years. It is believed they are alternative provider medical services contracts.

It is not clear whether the contracts will be held directly by the company or in partnership with GPs.

An SSP spokeswoman said: “All patients will be seen from existing surgeries. The current GPs, nurses and staff will continue in post as at present.”

Shikha and Sanjay Pitalia were previously leading members in a practice-based commissioning group called United League Commissioning. It was composed of SSP practices, rather than of practices in a particular area. GPs in the group proposed to form a clinical commissioning group, but NHS North of England decided it would not pass the authorisation process.

The practices have since joined proposed CCGs for their area - mainly St Helens CCG and Wigan Borough CCG.

The community provider Liverpool Community Health Trust said it had not bid for the contracts.

The preferred bidder said: “SSP Health is delighted to have been selected to run these 20 practices in Sefton and Liverpool.

“The procurement was based on a fixed price contract and the selection process was significantly focused on quality and patient services.

“SSP Health is a GP-led NHS organisation with a great deal of experience in general practice.”