• NHS Improvement stops takeover of Liverpool community services
  • Bridgewater Community Healthcare was the preferred bidder but the transfer was paused in February after trust was rated requires improvement
  • Alder Hey Children’s FT will provide the services on a short term management arrangement until an “alternative option” is found

The planned takeover of Liverpool’s troubled community services has been halted, NHS Improvement announced today.

Bridgewater Community Healthcare Foundation Trust had been selected in November as the preferred provider to take over the £77m contract from Liverpool Community Health Trust.

However, NHSI has now said the transfer was not going ahead and it would “pursue an alternative option”.

An NHSI spokeswoman said: “Following our work to assess the impact of the ‘requires improvement’ rating on that proposed transaction, we have decided not to continue the transaction with Bridgewater and to pursue an alternative option that we believe will present a better solution for patients.

“It is important to be clear that this decision in no way reflects on the services currently being delivered by Bridgewater, many of which were highlighted as good by the Care Quality Commission’s report and deliver high quality care to patients on a regular basis.”

The regulator had paused the planned takeover last month following Bridgewater being rated requires improvement by the CQC.

The services are currently run by Liverpool Community Health Trust, which is being disbanded after serious care and governance failings, which were compared to those at Mid Staffordshire.

Bridgewater chief executive Colin Scales stressed the majority of services at his trust were rated good but added: “It is extremely disappointing after this lengthy and transparent process to find a suitable provider to take on NHS community services in Liverpool, that a decision has now been taken to secure an alternative delivery model and that our innovative plans to develop a partnership for health and social care in Liverpool will now not proceed.”

Concerns have been raised locally about the contract value, which another bidder for the services said was too low to provide them safely.

West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper branded NHSI “incompetent” for halting the transfer, but not addressing funding for the services.

She said: “It is by NHS Improvement’s own hand that we now have the evidence that Bridgewater Community Healthcare were not up to the job of delivering this contract safely within the finance available and that NHS Improvement made the wrong decision.

“The acute trusts, which are already running their own deficits, are going to take on an underfunded community service, together with Liverpool city council’s efforts to add their cash strapped social care services to the mix, while there also efforts to try to merge the Royal Liverpool and Aintree hospitals.”

The interim leadership arrangements at Liverpool Community Health are due to end on 30 April with services transferring in May.

NHS Improvement said services will now be run by Alder Hey Children’s Foundation Trust with support from Aintree University Hospital FT and the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals Trust through a short term management arrangement.

The chair and chief executive of Alder Hey will act as chair and chief executive at Liverpool Community Health. Alder Hey will also provide additional executive capacity.

The NHSI spokeswoman said: “The experienced executive team at Alder Hey will take on responsibility for the day to day management of the Liverpool Community Health services, working with staff delivering those services to ensure a seamless transition, and that safe and effective services continue to be delivered to patients in the city.”

The transfer of some Liverpool Community Health services to Mersey Care FT and 5 Boroughs Partnership FT consortium will continue as planned

NHSI said it will continue to work with partners to identify the most appropriate way for the services to be delivered.