THE race is officially on to find a company to design and build the new £150million Papworth Hospital on the Addenbrooke’s biomedical campus in Cambridge.

The hospital had been expected to move to Cambridge in 2013 after the previous Government gave the green light to the Private Finance Initiative proposal to design, build, finance and operate the 290-bed hospital on an eight-acre site.

Tenders have now been invited through the Official Journal of the European Union, and bidders have 37 days – until mid-September – to submit initial expressions of interest. The process is void unless at least two compliant tenders are received.

Papworth chief executive Stephen Bridge believes it will take up to two years before the hospital trust can attract and evaluate tenders and then sign a 33-year deal with a preferred bidder, followed by three years’ construction work. So the new hospital will not open until 2015.

“We don’t need to wait until the Department of Health issues a deed of safeguard,” he told The Hunts Post. “We can go out to the market and make our case.

“Ideally, we would like to have three bidders that we can reduce to one in about nine months’ time [so far 13 consortia have shown interest in bidding]. Then we would have a year to work up the final plans with the preferred bidder before the three years’ building work.”

The big delay had been caused by the need to get Cambridge City Council to agree planning consents for a total of 70 acres on the campus, not just the Papworth corner.

In addition to the building cost, Papworth has earmarked £15m to buy the land, but the 30 years the successful bidder will spend looking after the site after completion – known as ‘facilities management’ – will bring the total cost of the project over the 33 years before ownership reverts to the hospital authorities to nearer £0.5billion at current prices (and probably at least twice or three times as much in cash terms).

The building cost has actually come down during the recession, from an estimated £180-190m to £170m and now £150m.

Although the successful bidder will be managing the building for 30 years, healthcare and the contracts of health professionals will remain with the NHS.

For the time being, the £120m-a-year specialist heart and lung hospital must continue to build its patient base, Mr Bridge said.