'˜We must work together for the sake of our NHS'
Just a couple of weeks ago, some of the out-of-hospital services were '˜put out to tender'. While some believe it is necessary move to keep the NHS viable, others fear it will have the opposite effect and is another step towards NHS privatisation. Reporter Oliver Williams finds out more.
South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust’s chief executive Glen Burley has reiterated the “vital importance” of it retaining its provision of out-of-hospital services.
As of March 23, South Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) started a competitive procurement exercise relating to the £21 million contract for the services which includes day care for the elderly, hospice care and community matrons.
Mr Burley has, firstly, raised concerns that - despite employing large numbers of staff who could be affected by the procurement - the foundation trust was “not notified” in advance that the process was being launched.
The process, which the CCG decided in November last year to launch, is open to NHS and non-NHS bidders and will run for 46 weeks at which point a bidder will be chosen.
After that the two parties will agree a contract.
Mr Burley said: “The document is unclear about how much longer this part of the process will take but it is likely to run to around a year in total.
“For the past three years we have lived with uncertainty regarding the future of community services, so an additional year will add further destabilisation.
“The contract specification includes services mainly run by the trust but in addition includes some mental health and end-of-life services run by other providers.
“The scope also includes some services which no-longer exist at it appears to be based on rather old description of community services.
“It also includes the intermediate care wards in our community hospitals, we had previously advised the CCG that these services would not be available to other bidders as they are owned and operated by us.”
Mr Burley has said that, despite the uncertainty, the foundation trust has continued to work with South Warwickshire GP Federation (SWGP) to develop new care models.
He said: “Prior to the tender launch we notified the CCG that we had signed an exclusivity agreement with SWGP which confirms that we will work together to respond to any procurement process and that we will not partner with any other bidder.
“Both organisations recognise that the best care for patients and service users will come from the collaboration of our strong local services and clinical expertise.
“It is vitally important for the sustainability of local hospital and community services that we and SWGP win this tender.
“It is inconceivable that we would move to a situation where we would move away from the integration that we have already achieved and which has been recognised nationally as an exemplar.”
To underline the success of the trust’s current model, Jim Mackey, chief executive of NHS Improvement, recently wrote a letter to praise it for being one of a small number of providers not in deficit but delivering the A&E standard.
Mr Burley said: “In a year where the financial challenges will be the toughest yet, we will need to be careful not to spend more public money on this procurement exercise than we need to.
“We should not be drawn in to a situation where we attempt to match the resources of private sector bidders, but we will need to bid effectively.”
**** The South Warwickshire Keep our NHS Public (SWKONP) campaign says South Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) could spend £1 million of public money on the competitive tendering of out-of- hospital services.
A statement from SWKONP says: “The cost to the tax-payer of this exercise will be around £1 million. That’s £300,000 spent by SWCCG itself on consultancy fees, an estimated £400,000 by SWFT to bid to keep the contract within the NHS and further costs by other local NHS bidders, such as Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership Trust, which contribute to this service. This CCG decision has been made in spite of the financial crisis facing the NHS.”
The CCG has said the current approach to contracting out-of - hospital services in south Warwickshire may not reflect future requirements or the most efficient use of resources and that early engagement with the public has supported this view.
As a result, changes may need to occur in the way services are commissioned, delivered and managed.