A high-level group appointed to advise health minister Mary Harney on the best place to locate cancer centres of excellence awarded far lower marks to St Luke's hospital in Rathgar than it did to the successful candidate, St James's hospital.

This has prompted campaigners against the closure of the hospital to claim it fell victim to health minister Harney's desire to shift cancer care away from publicly provided hospitals to private "for profit" services.

In its January 2005 advice to Harney, the expert panel set up to advise her on the best locations for the proposed new cancer centres of excellence in the north and southeast region recommended that Beaumont and St James's be chosen.

Details of the marking scheme, seen by the Sunday Tribune, reveal that St Luke's received an overall weighted score of 3,965, across a range of categories. This compares to an overall weighted mark of 8,897 for St James's.

St Luke's quality of cancer service delivery received just 909 marks, compared to 1,362 for St James's hospital, while it was awarded just 450 marks under the category "quality of proposed integrated cancer service delivery, to include radiation oncology". This compares to 2,335 for St James's.

Enid O'Dowd of the campaign to save St Luke's said it was "inexplicable" that the hospital had received such poor marks, particularly in light of its track record in cancer care. "If you choose the right experts you get the recommendation you want. There was no patient input into the decision to close St Luke's," she said.