COMMERCIAL: Assura Medical Limited has been announced as the preferred bidder for community health services in South West and North West Surrey.

The contract is worth between £490m and £650m over five years. The announcement follows a procurement contest between Assura, social enterprise Central Surrey Health, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust and Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Southern pulled out of the race in May.

At its meeting on 16 September, the NHS Surrey board agreed the recommendation of its programme board that, following a rigorous evaluation process, Assura Medical was the preferred bidder for the services currently provided by Surrey Community Health.

Assura Medical will take on services in North West and South West Surrey, as well as some delivered Surrey-wide, including sexual health services and prison healthcare.

NHS Surrey chair David Clayton-Smith said: “Today’s recommendation to make Assura Medical the preferred bidder for services in South West and North West Surrey follows a tough procurement process.

“Although it’s a significant milestone, there is still further work to be done as we enter the ‘due diligence’ phase. I am confident that this period of additional scrutiny will ensure the recommendation is robust for the benefit of patients and staff.”

The next steps are a period of due diligence. This will see further scrutiny of the tender submitted by Assura Medical to ensure the smooth transfer of services takes place on 31 December 2011.

Surrey Community Health chief executive Alison Edgington said: “I am delighted that we now know who the preferred bidder is and are able to start the real challenge of working closely with them to continue to improve community services in Surrey and deliver healthcare that the Surrey community can be proud of.

“I would like to thank all Surrey Community Health staff who have shown great patience during this process and remained professional throughout, giving expert care to all their patients. I am extremely proud of all of them.”