COMMERCIAL: The Co-operation and Competition Panel has found NHS Cornwall may have broken rules on competition and choice in arranging inpatient care for patients with learning disabilities.

St Piran’s Healthcare claims the primary care trust discriminated against their Kryllas Manor facility due to its proximity to the NHS-run Budock Hospital which was closed after it emerged patients were being physically abused by staff.

Following a six-week initial investigation, the panel has concluded the PCT could be at fault and has announced it will proceed to an in depth phase two investigation.

Announcing the decision the CCP said it was not clear whether the PCT’s decision not to place patients at Kryllas Manor amounted to a restriction of choice and whether the PCT had acted in a “transparent and non-discriminatory way”.

NHS Cornwall told the CCP its policy was to avoid commissioning inpatient facilities for patients with learning disabilities and it had a block contract with Cornwall Partnership Trust for its adult mental health and service provision which included inpatient facilities where necessary. However, the CCP said there was evidence that the PCT had commissioned a number of such placements out of the county.  

The CCP was also provided with an email from an NHS Cornwall employee to a consultant clinical psychologist at Cornwall Partnership Foundation Trust who was seeking to place a patient at the facility in June 2009.

It stated: “Under no circumstances will we agree to a placement at the new ‘Budock Hospital’ so I would strongly suggest that you re-consider options in the knowledge that no Cornwall patients will be placed here for the foreseeable future and beyond.”

St Piran’s claims this is evidence NHS Cornwall acted in a non-transparent manner as despite assuring the company it would consider placing patients at Kryllas Manor it never intended to.

However, the PCT says at the time of the email the facility was not registered with the Care Quality Commission and so it could not have placed patients there. It claims the reference to the “new ‘Budock Hospital’” was a due to the location and the fact the PCT did not know the facility’s name.

The phase two investigation is expected to complete before the end of March when the PCT is abolished.