Private companies on Staffordshire cancer contract shortlist
Several private companies have been shortlisted for what is believed to be the biggest outsourcing deal in NHS history.
Twelve organisations, including two NHS hospitals, are in the running for £1.2bn of NHS cancer and end-of-life contracts across Staffordshire.
Private bidders include Virgin Healthcare and US technology giant CSC.
Union Unite and the organisation Cancer Not For Profit have said it could lead to privatisation.
Prospective Labour parliamentary candidate for Stafford, Kate Godfrey has also expressed her concern at the development in the tender process.
She said: "I am quite worried about this.
"It is worse than I thought. This is a list of some of the most privatising companies in the world."
The Unison trade union has also said the move could mean the privatisation of care and described it as a "huge gamble".
The successful bidder will be asked to co-ordinate cancer care throughout Staffordshire - from diagnosis through to treatment and end-of-life care.
It will cover the four CCGs that commission services across the county - Stafford and Surrounds, Cannock Chase, Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire.
The groups said the shortlist represents a significant milestone for the project.
Andy Donald, chief officer for Stafford and Surrounds and Cannock Chase CCGs, said: "Our aim is to provide the best cancer and end of life care for patients in Staffordshire.
"We will be continuing to listen and gather feedback from our communities to ensure we reach our goal of delivering care that is among the best in Europe right here in Staffordshire"
The shortlist is the first stage in the tender process which will run until next summer and a final decision is not expected before the general election in May.
The five bidders for the cancer contracts are CSC Computer Services, Interserve Investment, United Health and two NHS hospitals, Royal Wolverhampton, and University Hospitals of North Midlands.
The same organisations are bidding for end-of-life contracts along with Virgin Healthcare and Health Management Limited.
The Department of Health has said the key issues are that patients get the best possible care "free at the point of use, no matter who provides it".