Lawyers have urged Monitor to block a commissioner’s plan to allow a private company to run an NHS urgent care centre.
A letter by law firm Leigh Day, seen by HSJ, claims Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group has breached Health Act competition laws by allowing private company Malling Health to provide the new service at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.
Its clients and campaign group Shropshire Defend our NHS claim the NHS had been “denied the opportunity” to provide the service as the CCG had made the appointment without putting the service out to tender.
The CCG claims the new urgent care centre is a relocation of a walk-in service from a health centre on a council housing estate which is three miles away from the hospital.
Malling Health secured a five year contract to run the walk-in service in 2009.
Under the CCG’s plans, the new urgent care centre is expected to see an estimated 36,000 patients each year, including most of the former walk-in centre patients plus some 65 per cent of patients who currently attend the hospital’s accident and emergency.
The letter by Leigh Day lawyer Rosa Curling to Monitor chief executive David Bennett claims the extent of the changes made it a “wholly different service in a different place within premises that Malling does not control”.
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“Both the CCG and NHS England have acted in an anti-competitive way in seeking to award the proposed contract to Malling,” she said.
Ms Curling told HSJ: “Our clients feel the NHS has been denied an opportunity to provide this service, and we are extremely concerned Monitor doesn’t seem to be acting quickly enough.
“This will be a case that tests the effectiveness of Monitor as a regulator.”
Caron Morton, accountable officer for Shropshire CCG, said it was in discussion with Monitor about the complaint.
“We are disappointed that this step appears to be designed to undermine a move aimed at improving NHS services for people who use the Shropshire walk in centre,” she added.
“The relocation at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital on 15 December will offer greater access to all Shropshire residents and people visiting or working in the county.
“The decision was taken in public, and we believe we followed the correct process throughout.”
A spokesman for Monitor said: “We have received a complaint and are considering what, if any, steps we might take.”