PRIVATE provider Virgin Care has been again been identified as the preferred bidder for a £104million contract for public health provision for under-20s by Lancashire County Council.

The authority was ordered to re-run the finals stages of of the tendering process for the delivery of school nursing and health visitor services by the High Court.

The April ruling followed a challenge to the procurement procedure by the previous providers Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust who lost out in the original competition.

Following a re-evaluation by a new independent panel of experts Virgin Care bid have been re-awarded the contract subject to a 10 day standstill period for the two trusts to consider whether to contest the decision again

In the absence of any further legal challenge, the handover will take place at the end of March.

The contract covers 12 boroughs including Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale and Chorley. Blackburn with Darwen has separate arrangements.

Cllr Shaun Turner, county council health boss, said: “Virgin Care has now been selected as preferred bidder to provide a range of new public health services for children aged 0 to 19 after the conclusion of this procurement process. ’The law requires the county council to open services such as these up to competition where they are not provided in house."

In August the authority paid £200,000 towards the legal costs of the NHS trusts.

A spokesperson for Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “At present we are in a standstill period so cannot comment any further at this time.”