HSJ’s round-up of Monday’s must read stories

£687m contract tender dropped

A controversial tender for cancer services in Staffordshire worth £687m has been abandoned after a consortium led by a private provider failed to convince commissioners its offer was financially viable.

Only one bidder, a consortium led by Interserve, remained in the running for the contract. The consortium also included University Hospitals North Midlands and The Royal Wolverhampton trusts.

The tender process for the 10 year, prime provider contract had been running since 2013 and HSJ understands the procurement has cost the four Staffordshire CCGs more than £840,000.

The decision by commissioners not to award the contract on financial grounds follows the high profile collapse of the £800m UnitingCare Partnership contract, which was abandoned in December 2015 eight months after going live.

As a result, procurement of the Staffordshire cancer contract and a separate £535m end of life care contract were paused for several months while a review was carried out. The process resumed in November.

Andy Donald, chief officer at Stafford and Cannock Chase CCGs, who was leading on the project, told HSJ: “The remaining bidder couldn’t convince us they could deliver with the resources available. They couldn’t meet the required evaluation criteria…

“There was always a chance that we would end up here but the work that has been done will be carried forward. We still have a problem in Staffordshire with poor survival rates and while some people will be pleased this contract hasn’t been awarded, at the end of the day it was all about improving patient experience and outcomes. There has been a lot of learning here.”

CCGs warned over financial moves

NHS England has warned CCGs that offer providers extra income to deliver their financial targets – and therefore trigger their STF payments – could be “personally” scrutinised by national officials.

The message from NHS England appears to differ from that expressed NHS Improvement, which has suggested such offers could be appropriate.

Under the STF rules, trusts that meet or exceed their surplus or deficit target qualify for increased incentive payments. Some CCGs appear to be considering whether securing this funding for the health economy should take priority over meeting their own financial target. The extra income paid to trusts for 2016-17 could then be returned to the CCG in 2017-18.

This runs contrary to the principles of the STF, which is supposed to incentivise trusts to deliver genuine efficiency savings.

When asked if it was comfortable with these offers being made, a spokesman for NHS England said: “Individual CCGs need to honour their agreed year-end financial delivery commitments, which are critical to securing the overall NHS financial position.

“Therefore any substantial last minute adverse movement by a CCG – whether or not related to the STF – will be subject to external review by auditors appointed by NHS England plus national scrutiny involving the CCG’s audit committee chair, finance director and accountable officer personally.”

This appears to contrast with the view taken by Jim Mackey, chief executive of NHS Improvement, who told HSJ in an interview last week that the discussions were appropriate.

Any extra payments to providers will adversely affect the financial position of the commissioning sector, where the financial position is finely balanced for 2016-17.

This was reinforced in a letter to CCGs from NHS England on Friday, which said it was “particularly critical” to avoid last minute adverse movements.