A health regulator is to investigate complaints over whether NHS England breached competition rules for commissioning cancer services.

Monitor said it would look at steps taken by NHS England covering procuring services, patient choice and competition.

The probe covers the introduction of new rules to select providers of some cancer surgery services following the reorganisation of the NHS earlier this year.

Complaints have been made by University Hospital of South Manchester Foundation Trust and Stockport Foundation Trust that the process to select future providers, which can include private companies, “is not based on the quality of services, patient outcomes or patient preferences”.

The investigation will also examine the conduct of those providers involved in the process to reorganise cancer surgery services in the Manchester area.

“While we recognise that it is important for providers to be involved in the reorganisation of health care services, this investigation will establish if the way this has happened in Manchester has been within procurement and competition rules,” a statement from Monitor said.

Jonathan Blackburn, Monitor’s legal director for co-operation and competition, added: “We are at the very early stages of this investigation and so it is too early for us to reach a view as to whether any rules have been breached.

“The purpose of our investigation is to assess whether the way in which cancer surgery services are being reorganised is in the interests of patients in Greater Manchester.”

The cancer surgery services in question cover cancer of the liver, gall bladder and pancreas, as well as urological, gynaecological and oesophageal cancers.