Outsourcer Serco this week insisted it remained committed to directly providing community care services after signing a deal with another care firm to advise it on its troubled Suffolk contract.

The company told HSJ that social enterprise Bromley Healthcare, which employs 800 people to provide community care services in five London boroughs, was being used in a support role to help it improve performance, although it was not being formally subcontracted.

Serco won a £140m three-year contract to run Suffolk Community Healthcare in 2012, although its work has been beset with performance problems. A spokeswoman for Serco said: “Serco is committed to directly providing community care services. Our commitment to the community healthcare market in the UK is undiminished.

“We will continue to work in partnership with NHS and other organisations to ensure that the right mix of skills and experience are brought together to meet the needs of patients and deliver sustainable services.”

The outsourcer’s operations in the county have recently been disrupted. Julia Sharman, a consultant who helped draw up the blueprint for the provider’s community care work in Suffolk, was made redundant last November.

The company was ordered to improve the quality of its services by commissioners last month, following a four-month probe that found problems with staff morale and communication with GPs.

Valerie Michie, the company’s health managing director, said in December that Serco’s future healthcare strategy would focus on community healthcare and non-patient facing services in acute settings. She said the company wanted to provide “support services in hospitals”, which meant doing “everything that is not done by a doctor or a nurse”.

Serco last year issued a profit warning and announced hundreds of job losses. However, a spokeswoman for Serco’s health operations this week said: “There’s no redundancy programme in the healthcare business.”

Jonathan Lewis, chief executive of Bromley Healthcare, suggested the Suffolk deal could be the first of a number of similar joint arrangements with Serco.

He said: “We are seeking to form a long term partnership. Generally we think in the dedicated community health market we have got great opportunities to work together.” 

Mr Lewis added that half of his organisation’s earnings on the deal would depend on it helping Serco to meet key performance indicators.

When asked if Serco intends to re-bid for the Suffolk contract after its current contract ends in October 2015, Abigail Tierney, chief executive of Suffolk Community Healthcare, said: “We’re interested to see what the tender for the next stage looks like.

“I can’t commit without seeing it, but we will be in a position to re-bid for that.”