FINANCE Debt-ridden, zero-starred PCT invites bids from specialist trusts

Published: 03/11/2005 Volume 115 No. 5980 Page 12

Troubled Hillingdon primary care trust, recently named by the Department of Health as having one of the worst deficits in the NHS in England, has decided to hive off provision of mental health services.

The zero-star PCT, which lost its chief executive Graeme Betts last month and is being run by Andrew Morgan, chief executive of neighbouring Harrow PCT, has a deficit of nearly£14m.

Now it has invited bids from two neighbouring mental health trusts, Central and North West London and West London, to take over its provision, including community, outreach, drug and alcohol services and inpatient services on two sites.

Hillingdon has only been running these services since April 2003, when they were transferred from Hillingdon Hospital trust. The PCT is the only one in London providing inpatient mental health services.

Central and North West London Mental Health trust chief executive Dr Peter Carter confirmed that his organisation was in the bidding, adding that it was 'part coincidence as they were looking at how they were going to go forward, then [NHS chief executive Sir] Nigel Crisp launched his PCT review. So Hillingdon decided mental health services would be better provided by a specialist mental health trust.' Both mental health trusts already provide inpatient and forensic services for the PCT. Dr Carter added:

'It is not a dramatic development as all PCTs well be divesting themselves of directly managing services.' Both trusts will be submitting informal 'rationales' setting out how they intend to provide services. A decision is expected later this month.

Dr Carter said: 'We do not feel we are in competition - we are simply helping out a sister NHS organisation. If we win the bid That is fine, if West London wins the bid That is equally fair.' Hillingdon MIND chair Robert Pike said he was concerned that local people were not given a say in decisions on mental health provision. 'It seems to be being decided for us by one or two large organisations.' He was also worried about quality and accountability if services are transferred to an organisation that is geographically further away. 'It will make it harder for us to get acquainted with providers and officers. Hillingdon provides a very local hands-on service that understands the needs of users. How that can be assured if services are managed from afar is up for question.' Hospital campaigner Jean Brett, best known for her campaign to save Harefield Hospital from closure, said: 'The bottom line on these plans are about money, not better patient care. These services should remain in-house because of the delicate and sensitive nature of mental healthcare.'