HEALTH campaigners fear another part of the NHS has been lost to the private sector after a controversial tendering process in Longridge and Chorley.

Physiotherapy in Chorley, South Ribble and Greater Preston is run by Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, but three new providers have now been chosen after the contract was put out to tender.

Health chiefs have refused to reveal the names of the providers until a final decision has been made, but they are likely to be a mix of private companies and charities.

The tendering followed the Any Qualified Provider process, which was introduced under the government’s health reforms and made it easier for non-NHS organisations to bid for health contracts.

Julia Berry, Chorley Council’s lead member for health, said she ‘hated’ the health service being opened up to multiple providers ‘each pretending that they are better than the other’.

She said: “I'm not convinced that any of them put the interests of patients first as they all seem to be interested in making money. I won't be happy until they can demonstrate that they really have the interests of patients at heart.”

The service will remain free for patients, but will be provided by companies or charities that will receive NHS cash for the work.

Physiotherapy had been part of a larger contract with musculoskeletal care, but they have now been split in two by commissioners. The musculoskeletal work, for damage to the joints or spine, has also gone out to tender but no providers have yet been chosen. Louise Giles, head of operations and delivery for the NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Chorley, South Ribble and Greater Preston, said: “Feedback from patients and local clinicians showed us our local physiotherapy and musculoskeletal care could be significantly improved.

“We therefore embarked on a journey to buy new services to help reduce waiting times for patients, give patients more choice, and improve coordination between all services that treat people with joint and muscle problems.

“Local patients have already been involved in the formal procurement processes to make sure that we commission services that best meet patient needs.”

The CCGs refused to reveal the value of the old or new contracts, claiming both were commercially sensitive.

Lancashire Care said it ‘does not anticipate any redundancies’ as a result of losing the physio contract. The trust did not respond when asked whether it would bid for the musculoskeletal contract.