HSJ’s round-up of the day’s essential stories

Corby pressed

A clinical commissioning group is facing an unexpected bill likely to run into millions, after losing a legal battle with an independent provider of a local urgent care centre.

In a judgement that may have much wider ramifications for the NHS, Corby CCG was told by a QC that it had been wrongly undercutting tariff rates to health provider Lakeside Plus for three years.

The CCG told HSJ that the ruling found its tariff variation, agreed in May 2014 with Lakeside Plus, was “ineffective”. The QC presiding over the expert determination found that the commissioners had not consulted on the price per patient it had agreed with the provider, and therefore, had not followed national rules for tariff price variation.

The general manager of the urgent care centre said: “Where national tariff applies, tariff has to be paid, and to not do so is unlawful. That is what we have tested.”

Effectively, the ruling told the CCG that legislation brought in by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 trumps a signed contract.

With the CCG now asked to backdate payments to 1 April 2014, it is facing a huge bill payable in this financial year. With no allowances made for the payment in its accounts, the group said it will have to make “cuts [to] other services” to pay for the “serious financial implications” of the successful legal challenge.

But the national fallout from the ruling is unclear. One source told HSJ it could “absolutely” lead to other providers challenging the legality of their contracts and questioned how many CCGs were confident that they had followed tariff rules to the letter.

STP team work

Two foundation trust chiefs are to be the interim leaders of a financially challenged sustainability and transformation partnership.

Mairead McAlinden from Torbay and South Devon Foundation Trust and Suzanne Tracey from Royal Devon and Exeter FT will replace outgoing Wider Devon STP lead Angela Pedder when she retires at the end of this month. The recruitment process for a permanent lead will begin shortly.

Ms Tracey will take on responsibility for the operational elements of the STP leadership role, while Ms McAlinden will focus on strategy.

Ms Pedder has led the STP and the region’s success regime, which encompass the north, east, and west of Devon, since spring 2016 following 19 years as chief executive of Royal Devon and Exeter FT.

Meanwhile, in a bid to bring the county’s two CCGs closer together, a GP has been appointed accountable officer of both groups.

Nick Roberts, who is already chief clinical officer at South Devon and Torbay CCG, will also lead Northern, Eastern and Western Devon CCG – the largest in the country – on an interim basis.

It follows a move by the CCGs to set up committees in common, as the county aims to create a single strategic commissioner approach.