PLANS to move vital cancer scans from the Churchill Hospital as part of a privatisation deal have been scrapped.

However, NHS England’s new deal with private firm InHealth to provide PET-CT scans could now create a postcode lottery in cancer services for the wider region, according to Oxford doctors.

Consultants had raised fears over patient safety under NHS England’s plans to relocate PET-CT scans away from the hospital in Headington – a centre of excellence for cancer care.

But following a public backlash, those plans have been scrapped and a new deal - in principle at least - between profit-driven InHealth work with Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust will see scans continue to provide service for NHS patients.

Read again: Churchill 'loses' contract for PET-CT scanning

The climbdown by NHS chiefs came after doctors at the trust warned that moving the service from the Churchill would ‘undoubtedly cause clinical harm’ to patients.

PET-CT scans (Positron emission tomography and computed tomography) are vital in the diagnosis of cancer as well as being used by doctors to see how well treatments are progressing.

Under InHealth’s initial proposals, inpatients at the Churchill would have been forced to travel by ambulance to the GenesisCare centre in Sandy Lane West, Littlemore.

Instead, to preserve the service for patients in Oxford, a late deal has now been struck which will see InHealth work with OUH to provide the service.

A new NHS England report on the new contract states: “Under the new deal, InHealth’s clinical lead will work collaboratively with OUH’s PET-CT clinicians, who will continue to provide clinical reporting for the service.”

Trust chairman, Dame Fiona Caldicott, said: “This is an agreement in principle at this stage, but it is a step in the right direction which we welcome.

Read again: Churchill boss is 'very concerned' over PET-CT scan privatisation

“We look forward to working in partnership with NHS England and InHealth over the coming weeks and months to ensure that we can come to a detailed final agreement which is in the best interests of patients.”

A spokesman for NHS England said they were unable to provide details of exactly how the new deal with OUH and InHealth would work.

Despite the good news for Oxford patients, local doctors have raised fears that the new contract will create a two-tier cancer service in the region and could also meaning the hospital misses out on vital funds from research projects and private treatments.

As part of the new contract NHS England and InHealth will continue with plans to run two new PET-CT scanners in Swindon and Milton Keynes.

While Oxford cancer patients will benefit from a new state-of-the-art digital PET CT scanner, said to be 10 times more powerful than the existing scanners, those living closer to the mobile sites will not.

Read again: Radioactive patients from cancer centre 'could poison schoolchildren'

Professor of medical oncology at Oxford University and former lead for breast oncology at OUH, Adrian Harris, said: “This new deal means that InHealth and NHS England have essentially generated a two-tier system.

“They have actually split the hospital system in two.

“Would you rather travel another hour and have a better-quality scan and better doctors? Or have a a lower quality scan that’s a bit closer to home?”

Prof. Harris also said the new deal could mean the hospital misses out on vital research projects worth over a million pounds a year to the trust.

Health campaigners Keep Our NHS Public slammed the privatisation deal and demanded a halt to the process.

Chairman Bill MacKeith said: : "This is not a U-turn. Far from it.

He added: "KONP see the so-called ‘partnership’ as pulling the wool over our eyes.

"The detail of the contract with InHealth - and of InHealth with the OUH must be revealed before we can even consult on it.

"We want HOSC to refer the whole sorry procurement process for our world class PET scanner service to the Secretary of State on the grounds that it was a flawed process, with no proper consultation.

"We believe that the current proposed ‘deal’ will lead to a worsening of service across the region.

"The statement that there will be ’no impact’ for the people of Oxford is not true - there will be serious repercussions."

"This is not ‘outsourcing’ like the Carillion contract. This is direct privatisation of a part of our NHS. We demand a halt to the process."

NHS England are yet to officially announce the new contract with InHealth and have put forward plans for a six-week public consultation on the deal.

The issue will be discussed at next week’s meeting of the county’s Joint Health Scrutiny and Overview Committee.