STROUD mayor John Marjoram has accused NHS Gloucestershire of being 'disingenuous' in light of its decision to postpone the transfer of Stroud General Hospital to a social enterprise.

The transfer was set to take place on Saturday, October 1 but because of legal action taken by Stroud resident Michael Lloyd, 75, the NHS has been forced to rethink its position.

NHS staff were informed via a joint statement with the social enterprise, that because of the legal action, the transfer may be postponed and if halted completely, private companies would be allowed to bid to take over the hospital.

"It is unfortunate that the challenge has been raised only a matter of days before the transfer was due to occur, which was the culmination of a lot of hard work by you all," the statement read.

"If taken to its logical conclusion the challenge would mean that community services would be competitively tendered with the result that bodies both within and outside of the NHS sector could respond.

"The challenge may therefore accelerate the very thing the challenger says he is opposed to."

However, Cllr Marjoram insists a third option would be to keep it within the NHS.

"The NHS is being disingenuous," he said.

"It is not true that the public must pick between a social enterprise and privatisation.

"They are in fact able to keep it within the NHS and not hand it over to a social enterprise or a private company."

He added that he thought health bosses were misinterpreting government legislation over the outsourcing of services, leading to a belief that the hospital would be better run outside the NHS.

Following an exchange of letters with Mr Lloyd’s solicitors, Leigh Day & Co, NHS Gloucestershire has agreed not to proceed with the transfer without providing at least three days notice.

However, the solicitors said if such notice were given, it would seek an injunction preventing the takeover until the matter is fully resolved.

NHS Gloucestershire insists it remains committed to the transfer but refused to comment on whether the hospital could be kept within the NHS.

Jan Stubbings, chief executive of NHS Gloucestershire, said: "We believe we have identified the most appropriate solution for the future and have a clear direction with the majority of our community health services becoming part of a social enterprise – working in the community interest and for the social good. "However, we wish to resolve outstanding matters to ensure a seamless transfer and therefore must take additional time to do so."