COMMERCIAL: A mental health trust which faced losing business worth £30m due to quality concerns has been named as the preferred bidder for the main lot in a highly contested tender for the services.

Commissioners in Bristol decided to tender services provided by the £195m turnover Avon and Wiltshire Partnership Trust in November 2012, following repeated failed attempts to get the provider to improve service quality.

The contract was split into five lots. The first and largest lot, for community mental health services, was worth about £17m a year.

That lot also included a contract for a “system leader”, which would be responsible for co-ordinating provision between the five lots.

It attracted bids from five consortiums, whose members included private providers the Priory Group and Optum Health as well as six NHS mental health providers. However, only coalitions led by AWP and neighbouring Gloucestershire based 2gether Foundation Trust made the shortlist.

Last Thursday, Bristol CCG announced Mental Health Bristol, the AWP led coalition including the trust and nine voluntary sector organisations, was the preferred bidder for lot one and lot two, a community rehabilitation service.

The preferred bidder for lot three, a dementia wellbeing service, is Bristol Dementia Partnership, a partnership between Devon Partnership Trust and the Alzheimer’s Society. Lot four, a mental health employment service, has gone to voluntary sector provider the Richmond Fellowship in partnership with Mental Health Matters, Windmill Hill City Farm and the Somali Resource Centre.

The fifth lot, an assertive engagement service, went to St Mungo’s in partnership with local women’s charity One25.

The preferred bidder stage is not a formal contract award and the CCG could go back to another shortlisted bidder if it is not assured that the selected preferred bidders will deliver the system of mental health services needed in Bristol.

Bristol Primary Care Trust decided to tender the services after becoming increasingly frustrated with AWP for its failure to provide services that addressed the needs of the city’s diverse population.

However, around that time new leadership was brought into AWP, after an NHS South of England commissioned report found the trust had a “centralist, top down, target driven” culture.

Chief executive Iain Tulley, who joined AWP from Devon Partnership Trust in November 2012, told HSJ the organisation had moved from “amorphous” provision across the six CCGs it covers to a clinically led locality structure which was more responsive to local needs.

He said the trust had also replaced “hundreds” of key performance indicators with a core of seven quality measures used across the organisation. Mr Tulley said he hoped to roll this out across the providers of all five lots, to enable the trust as system leader to identify performance issues at an early stage.

He added: “Being named preferred bidder is a testament to the turnaround at the trust because the reason Bristol [commissioners] went out to tender was they were completely dissatisfied with AWP.”

The trust is also back on the foundation trust pipeline and hopes to go to Monitor later this year following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission in June.