The DoH is inviting tenders for a £500m project that bundles together three hospitals in the north of England. The aim is to reduce delivery times and contractors' bid costs by requiring firms to design only one of the hospitals in detail.
Whitehall sources confirmed that Carillion, Bovis Lend Lease and Equion, a subsidiary of Laing Group specialising in the management of PFI projects, will attend a seminar in Salford on Wednesday to learn how the pilot scheme will work. Interserve and Taylor Woodrow's New Hospitals consortium will also attend.
The DoH has received 40 expressions of interest in the scheme, which comprises hospitals in Salford and Tameside, both in Greater Manchester, and Bradford in West Yorkshire.
Under competition rules, bidders design one hospital at the bidding stage; the others are worked on only after a firm has been named preferred bidder.
In order to gauge the overall cost of the bundle and compare bids, the DoH will ask bidders to reveal the methodology used to cost the hospital that they design in detail.
We envisage smaller batches of hospitals and mental health schemes
Department of Health source
Brian Banfield, project director of batching at the DoH, said the deals were intended to lead to the development of standard contracts and so speed up procurement.
He said: "Unlike traditional PFI competitions, the selection of the batch partner will result in the preferred partner and the DoH and the NHS trusts entering into a legally enforceable framework agreement."
A similar scheme in Kent was due to have been launched at about the same time as the northern-based pilot. However, one of the two hospitals in that scheme is being reconfigured. This means that a new partner hospital is being sought for the £175m redevelopment of Tunbridge Wells Hospital. An invitation to tender is now expected at the end of the summer.
The DoH aims to release smaller bundled schemes, valued at about £50m, to encourage smaller contractors to bid.