Monitor has launched an investigation into clinical commissioning groups’ intentions for the £10bn community services sector, HSJ has learned.

The regulator has this month sent out a questionnaire to every CCG to scope the current state of the market in a bid to gather intelligence about how commissioners plan to improve community services.

Most of the services are provided on contracts established under the transforming community service programme in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

Many of these agreements expired at the end of 2013-14, but had an option to extend for a further two years and so are yet to be retendered.

As a result, there is a widespread expectation that all but a few of the contracts will be renewed or restructured over the coming year.

Monitor is expected to publish the findings of its research in the autumn. The report will be aimed at CCGs, and could include new guidance on what options are available to commissioners to recommission the services, including hypothetical case studies.

Options are likely to include: a full EU compliant tender; more streamlined processes such as a “competitive dialogue”; and awarding the contract without competition, but based on rigorous market analysis.

The questionnaire asked CCGs to provide details on:

  • existing contracts for community services;
  • how they plan to deliver or change these services when existing contracts expire;
  • the processes they plan to use to select community service providers in the future; and
  • any information or views on commissioning community services that respondents would like to share with other commissioners.

The probe is understood to be Monitor’s response to enquiries from commissioners and providers about the community services market.

Commissioners have appealed for guidance and advice on the options available to them and whether their plans are compliant with competition regulations.

A small number of providers have expressed concern that CCGs had not put contracts out to tender.

David Hare, chief executive of the NHS Partners Network, said he was not aware that any members had approached Monitor over the issue.

He added: “We need to transform how community services are delivered. There’s an opportunity to do that through the end of the transforming community services contracts.

“A greater coordination between primary care and community services needs to happen, and we need to have a focus on each individual service rather than having a block of services that don’t get the attention they each deserve.”

Tower Hamlets CCG chair Sam Everington told HSJ CCGs “do not just want to roll the contracts over… that would be a massive missed opportunity”.

But he warned that full procurement “takes a massive amount of time and energy and can create great delay”.