• Care UK pulls out of Thames Valley 111 service six weeks after winning contract, citing “issues” with its bid
  • Intended launch date of April 2017 now at risk as a six-week co production phase must be repeated
  • Thames Valley CCGs refuse to confirm how much the withdrawal has cost it or whether Care UK will be penalised

Care UK has pulled out of a contract to provide NHS 111 and out of hours services across several clinical commissioning group areas six weeks after it was awarded, putting the intended launch date of the service at risk.

Ten CCGs in the Thames Valley area were notified on 3 November that Care UK was no longer able to continue with the procurement process to provide out of hours services to the region under a five-year contract, after it had identified “issues” with its bid.

Care UK declined to tell HSJ what these issues were or whether it would be willing to reimburse the CCGs for any duplicate spend that may arise from appointing another provider.

A spokesman for the company told HSJ: ”The [procurement] process is intended to give both commissioner and bidding organisations an opportunity to make an in depth assessment of the specification and potential solutions. Care UK has regretfully concluded that it would not be in either our best interest, or that of the commissioner, to continue to the next stage of the process.”

Care UK had already undertaken a six-week “co-production” phase with CCGs. A spokesman for Healthwatch Bucks said that the private provider “outlined their vision of the service” at several workshops, with at least two events held at which members of the public could provide their own views.

The contract has since been awarded to the incumbent provider, South Central Ambulance Service. The “co-production” process will now need to be repeated, which Healthwatch Bucks said “may result in the launch being delayed from April 2017”.

A spokesman for the Thames Valley CCGs failed to respond to a request from HSJ to confirm how much the withdrawal of Care UK from the contract has cost it, or whether the provider has been asked to accept any of the resultant financial burden.

The Thames Valley 111 service is intended to bring together NHS 111, GP out-of-hours and other clinical advice, such as dental, medicines and mental health. 

A spokesman for Healthwatch Bucks said: ”Although, SCAS is the current provider of the service, they will still be expected to improve the service. The new contract requires that the provider will adapt the service to meet the changing needs of the population. They will also need to demonstrate how the service will cope with increased demand on emergency and urgent care services.

”We’re working with Healthwatch Reading , which represents the Thames Valley Healthwatch group in relation to the 111 procurement,  to get more information regarding the impact of this change on the overall process.”

The ten CCGs involved in the Thames Valley contract are: Aylesbury Vale CCG; Chiltern CCG; Oxfordshire CCG; Berkshire West CCG Federation (comprising of Newbury & District CCG, North & West Reading CCG, South Reading CCG, Wokingham CCG) and Berkshire East CCG Federation (comprising of Windsor, Ascot & Maidenhead CCG, Bracknell and Ascot CCG, Slough CCG).