COMMERCIAL: Competition regulator Monitor has opened an investigation into a Devon clinical commissioning group’s plan to award a community services contract without a tender, a decision one trust has called “wrong” for patients.

Northern, Eastern and Western Devon CCG – the largest in the country – is to come under watchdog scrutiny after it decided to name Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust as the preferred provider for community services in the east of its patch. The contract is worth £100m over three years.

Northern Devon district hospital

Northern Devon Healthcare FT complained about the decision making process

The regulator stepped in after receiving a complaint from Northern Devon Healthcare Trust, which has provided community services in eastern Devon since April 2011.

The fresh contract could begin from as early as September, subject to consultation.

Dr Alison Diamond, chief executive of Northern Devon, said: “We are of the opinion that the CCG’s decision is the wrong one for patients and the health system, made at the wrong time and made in a potentially flawed way.”

A Monitor spokesman said it will review the CCG’s original decision making process to ensure it was in accordance with procurement, choice and competition rules.

Dr David Jenner, chair of the eastern locality of NEW Devon CCG, said it welcomes Monitor’s investigation but remains confident that the CCG made the correct decision for its patients.

Monitor said the investigation may have wide ranging implications on the work of other health economies looking to integrate care in line with the new models of care outlined in the NHS Five Year Forward View.

Catherine Davies, Monitor’s executive director of cooperation and competition, said: “We have taken this case on because it may provide valuable lessons for the rest of the NHS as it tries to come up with new models of care to meet the many challenges it faces.

“There are a number of ways to achieve better integration of care and we want to make sure that commissioners are going about it properly.”

Local Conservative MP Neil Parish said he supports NEW Devon CCG’s decision, accusing Northern Devon of making the complaint due to “sour grapes” after losing the contract.

Mr Parish also told HSJ “the local community and clinicians were very keen for Royal Devon and Exeter to run these contracts”.

The Monitor spokesman added the regulator would publish further information about the nature of the complaint and its investigation “in due course”.