COMMERCIAL: Private provider Circle has become Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s prime contractor for its integrated musculoskeletal service after scooping a £120m five-year contract.

The CCG named Circle as its preferred bidder to consolidate 20 separate contracts into a single service in August.

Circle has said it is the first such integrated service in the country led by a prime contractor.

The first stage has already gone live, with GPs now able to be refer patients to a “central hub” for MSK treatment.

The rest of the service is expected to be rolled out over the next six months. Bedford Hospital and Luton and Dunstable Hospital are expected to be integrated into the service by the autumn.

Bedfordshire GP Andy Edwards, who led the development of the plans and has been acting as the CCG’s clinical lead on MSK, said the service would “make a huge difference to patients, offering an integrated, seamless service with more care available in the community”.

As an ambitious project, the clinical commissioners would be monitoring it carefully to ensure it “delivered the benefits for patients that we are looking for”, he added.

Earlier this month Sheffield CCG agreed to commission city-wide integrated musculoskeletal services on a five year outcome based contract, which could be worth £40m a year.

However, the CCG awarded prime contractor status to Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust rather than put it out to tender.