The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.

Dropped monikers

It would seem good business practice, not to mention the patient safety implications, to have a (very) good reason for terminating a contract to provide clinical services early and at short notice.

Unfortunately, when provider Concordia Specialist Care Services “ceased delivering” a dermatology services contract in Essex, including some work for cancer patients, two months early, the company provided no official reason for doing so and just five days’ notice.  

But this is not the only unusual detail of this story.

The provider’s parent company was called Concordia Health Holdings LLP until Friday (17 May). Then its name, as listed on the Companies House website, changed to Omnes Healthcare Holdings LLP. The move is so fresh that the Companies House “change of name” notice will not appear on the website until later this week. 

No name change can, however, hide or change its financial performance as reported in its most recent accounts, for the 18 months leading up to March 2018. These not only stated its liabilities exceeded its assets but raised doubts over the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.

Separate accounts for subsidiary CSCS, which is one of five subsidaries listed in the parent’s accounts, for the same period also reported liabilities exceeded assets and “doubts” over the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.

The company said the accounts, the most recent publicly available, were not a “fair representation of the picture in 2019 [as they are] over 12 months out of date”. The company added it was “restructuring” and all its other services were “continuing sustainably and on a long-term basis”. 

While the accounts clearly indicated a company with significant financial issues, there is of course no way to predict how this restructure will fare.

But pulling out of contracts early at short notice and then providing no official reason to either the NHS or the media for doing so may not prove the best strategy for winning further NHS work if they can turn around.  

Third strike

The Care Quality Commission has exercised its fundamental standards powers for the third time since they were introduced following the Mid Staffordshire care scandal.

The safety and quality regulator has announced it is prosecuting Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust for allegedly failing to provide safe care to one of its patients. The prosecution relates an incident where a patient sustained serious injuries falling from the roof of the trust’s Applewood ward in 2016. The trust has yet to submit a plea.

The CQC’s two previous prosecutions were against mental health trusts as well. The first one, against Southern Health Foundation Trust, also involved a patient falling from a roof

The second prosecution was launched against Sussex Partnership Trust for failing to provide safe care to a 19-year-old who died under its care

In November, CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm told HSJ he was prepared to pursue trusts for prosecution, saying: “I can’t excuse unsafe care. If we think a provider is unsafe, we have got to call it out and in a number of cases we will take enforcement action.”