COMMERCIAL: A third of contracts between providers and commissioners in the North West are still incomplete, HSJ has discovered.

Elsewhere in the country heavy use of arbitration has been required to secure agreement.

Eighteen contracts were still in discussion in the North West at the end of last week, around one third of the total contracts for the region. One has gone to NHS North West for arbitration.

Three of the region’s outstanding contracts are between acute providers and NHS Manchester. GPs from the primary care trust’s pathfinder commissioning consortium are leading negotiations on its behalf.

In London, all but one contract has been agreed.

However, four trusts have only signed contracts following external arbitration. They include Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals Trust, which could not agree with commissioners on contracts worth more than £8m, including a £5.95m deal on a local reduced tariff for short stay emergency admissions.

Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust disputed a £3.6m contract over high cost drugs, while South London Healthcare Trust called in arbitrators over £6m of contracts with the south east London cluster.

Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals Trust went to arbitration over a £2m contract for the proportion of patients admitted through accident and emergency. A further £5.4m for converting day cases to outpatients was also disputed.

The north central London cluster has had to move to a “pay as you go” arrangement with University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust.

In the South Central area, two contracts were waiting to be signed off at 19 April: Basingstoke and North Hampshire Foundation Trust and Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals Trust. Heatherwood and Wexham Park has been granted a three month extension by NHS Berkshire East.

HSJ also understands that Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Foundation Trust has not yet reached an agreement with NHS West Sussex, with the PCT’s demand management plans in dispute.

*Update* May 9, 2011: Since going to press HSJ has learned that NHS West Sussex and other Sussex PCTs reached an agreement with Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals during the final week of April.