An NHS panel has decided to investigate Acevo's complaint against a primary care trust that prevented non-NHS organisations from bidding to be primary contractors in the provision of community services.
The chief executives body made a complaint to the NHS Cooperation and Competition Panel, whose remit includes investigating procurement disputes, about Great Yarmouth and Waveney Primary Care Trust's decision to exclude non-NHS providers from leading bids to provide community services.
The complaint is part of an attempt by Acevo to challenge health secretary Andy Burnham's recent statement that the NHS should be the preferred provider of services.
In a decision published yesterday, the Cooperation and Competition Panel ruled that the matter did meet its criteria for investigation.
Ralph Michell, head of policy at Acevo, said that although the panel did not have any formal powers, it had sufficient influence to make a significant ruling that could benefit third sector organisations wanting to provide NHS services.
"It is effectively putting the secretary of state in the dock," he said. "There is the potential for a very significant outcome if the panel decides that this runs counter to Department of Health policy."
Dr Sushil Jathanna, chief executive of NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney, said in a statement that the trust was disappointed at the panel's decision.
"Our priority has always been to make sure that the services we commission provide the best possible care for our patients, while at the same time complying with national policy and guidance," he said.