HSJ’s round-up of Friday’s must read stories and debate

Pay up or stay inside

A long battle to recoup money fraudulently claimed by four former NHS technicians drew towards a positive conclusion this week.

We reported yesterday that a judge has ordered the four perfusionists, formerly of Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Foundation Trust, to pay £650,000 or face extra prison time.

The senior staff were, without the trust’s knowledge, moonlighting at numerous other hospitals, as well as duping junior employees.

All were directors of private firm London Perfusion Science, a vehicle they used to work “privately and profitably” at other NHS hospitals at times they were already being paid to work at Basildon Hospital.

The group, who worked the machinery to keep patients’ hearts and lungs functioning while they underwent major surgery, were found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the trust following an NHS Protect investigation.

The judge determined on 24 November they had only worked 55 per cent of their contracted hours at Basildon, and had failed to work 14,000 hours they had been paid for, following the longest ever trial held at Basildon Crown Court.

Judge Owen-Jones ordered the NHS be compensated £519,539.51, with £75,000 paid to cover costs and a further £59,000 to the Treasury.

The investigators said that the trial had been “notorious for the colourful language uncovered by investigators in emails between the fraudsters”.

“At one point they were like euphoric gamblers after a big win, with Mulholland deriding Basildon Hospital, his official place of work, as ‘Bas Vegas’.”

Staffs contracts get the go-ahead

After an 11-month pause a major project to tender £1.2bn worth of cancer and end of life care services in Staffordshire has been given the go-ahead by NHS England.

The decision is a vote of confidence by the national commissioning body for the work of four Staffordshire CCGs working on the programme.

The contracts were paused after the collapse of the Uniting Care contract in Cambridgeshire which led NHS England to come up with and a new regime for assuring major contracts and to kill off the strategic projects team – the NHS’s in-house commercial advisors.

The Staffordshire CCGs were being advised by the SPT but now after reviews by NHS England over the last year the programme has sought new legal advice on the contracts and is ready to move ahead.

It looks near-certain that a privately led consortium headed by Interserve will take on the £687m cancer contract. Interserve is also in the running for the £535m end of life care contract, although Virgin Care and Optum are still bidding there.

Whatever the outcome in terms of winners, this model of service delivery will be watched by every commissioner. The ultimate aim is to drive integration to improve outcomes despite the financial squeeze. If it works, many will follow suit.

However, history in Staffordshire shows the county does not have a great track record of integration or working together. And there remain substantial public and political opposition to these contracts. Definitely one to watch.