COMMERCIAL: Relations between a Devon trust and its local clinical commissioning group are ‘strained’, the chief executive of the NHS Trust Development Authority has said.

David Flory wrote to Ben Bradshaw last month, in response to a letter the Exeter MP had sent him enquiring about an “apparent breakdown in relations” between Northern, Eastern and Western Devon CCG and Northern Devon Healthcare Trust. Mr Flory said relationships in the health economy were not always professional and constructive.

In the letter, which Mr Bradshaw published on his website, Mr Flory said the relationship between the two had been “strained over the last two years”, with arbitration required to agree the 2013-14 contract and mediation needed to address “in-year issues”.

David Flory

A ‘formal dispute resolution’ is needed, David Flory said

“The need for formal dispute resolution is often a symptom of deeper issues with local relationships,” he said.

Mr Flory wrote that given Devon’s status as a financially challenged health economy, “it is difficult to overstate the importance of partner organisations working together professionally and constructively”.

“This is clearly not the nature of some of the relationships in Devon and this needs to change as a matter of urgency,” he added.

Mr Flory also revealed a “facilitator” had been appointed to support contract negotiations between the two organisations.

In a statement, Northern Devon’s chief executive Alison Diamond said the trust was “committed to maintaining positive working relationships with partner organisations”.

She said the trust appointed Ian Tipney, the former chief executive of Somerset Primary Care Trust, as the facilitator during contract negotiations for 2014-15.

Mr Tipney was paid a total of £12,007 for the role, including expenses.

Dr Diamond added: “As part of the process, Ian said he witnessed both organisations working professionally and constructively amid challenging circumstances.

“Contract negotiations can present challenges to commissioner-provider relationships and throughout these discussions it is crucial for us and other organisations to keep the best outcomes for patients and local services at the very forefront of our minds.”

NEW Devon CCG declined to comment on Mr Flory’s remarks.

A spokesman for the TDA said it supported the decision to appoint a facilitator so that the parties “could focus on the most important issue of all: maintaining and improving patient care on a sustainable basis”.