THE secrecy continued as health bosses once again refused to reveal details of the bids submitted by the rival firms vying to run Hinchingbrooke Hospital – despite serious questions raised over the scrutiny of the bidders.

THE secrecy continued as health bosses once again refused to reveal details of the bids submitted by the rival firms vying to run Hinchingbrooke Hospital - despite serious questions raised over the scrutiny of the bidders.

At a stakeholder meeting on Wednesday (October 27) members of the public and hospital staff were told they would have to wait until Friday, November 26, to learn who has been awarded the management franchise.

And it will only be after the appointment of either London-based Circle healthcare partnership or the joint venture of Peterborough and Stamford Hospital NHS Trust and Serco Group, that the plans for the hospital will made public.

Tender submissions were submitted by both firms to the strategic health authority NHS East of England two weeks ago.

But when asked if details of both submissions would be released to The Hunts Post, Andrew MacPherson, director of strategic projects for NHS East of England, said commercial interests would not allow it.

He said: "Once the preferred bidder is announced, they will start preparing the way forward for the partnership with the hospital."

Members of the stakeholder panel sub-committee, a panel made up of community leaders and health representatives, were allowed to quiz representatives about their bids and, awarded marks based on their answers.

But the structure of the interviews were denounced as restrictive.

Southoe and Midloe parish councillor Allan Parsons said: "It sounds as though the stakeholder committee had one arm tied behind their back. They had to give the questions in advance, but were not allowed to see the answers until the very day they made their recommendations.

"Why weren't the Strategic Health Authority setting the rules?"

Royal College of Nursing officer Tony Durcan, who chairs the sub committee, admitted there was frustration, but defended the process. He said: "We had to be absolutely clear in advance about what we were doing and why we were doing it. Even though we were frustrated, we understood we were going to make the best of what we possibly could do."

Questions were also asked about the expertise of both companies to run a hospital and what would happen if the successful bidder failed.

Mr MacPherson admitted neither company had run hospitals, but reassured the meeting that a contingency plan was in place.

"In the unlikely event of the franchise failing, the hospital would continue and there is a fall-back position. There is no question of Hinchingbrooke having to shut up shop."