COMMERCIAL: A clinical commissioning group is facing a legal challenge over the procurement of £16.6m in services using the innovative prime contractor model.

Bexley CCG in south east London confirmed to HSJ the award of the contract for the borough’s musculoskeletal work had been halted following a legal challenge from Lewisham and Greenwich Trust, which runs services in neighbouring boroughs.

The contract would entail a lead provider receiving an outcomes based payment to integrate the entire care pathway and then subcontracting work to other organisations.

The challenge came after the CCG overrode the recommendation of the trust special administrator appointed to oversee the break-up of South London Healthcare Trust that Dartford and Gravesham Trust should run high-volume elective services at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Bexley until April 2015. Instead, the CCG issued a tender for musculoskeletal work due to begin last month.

The CCG awarded “preferred bidder” status to King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust in November. Lewisham and Greenwich Trust were the sub-contractor in Dartford and Gravesham Trust’s subsequent bid.

Dartford and Gravesham would not confirm whether it was also issuing a challenge but said in a statement: “We see mediation as the best way forward for all parties involved.”

In a statement the commissioning body told HSJ it was “working with its NHS partners to resolve the challenge and ensure patient care isn’t compromised.”

King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust took over the running of Princess Royal University Hospital in Bromley in October following the dissolution of South London Healthcare Trust as part of the special administration process.

Over the course of the five-year contract the commissioning body hoped to obtain a 30 per cent saving on what it had previously paid for the services.

The dispute could cause further uncertainty for staff in the services affected by the dissolution of South London Healthcare in October.

The administrator’s final report said: “This [transfer of responsibility for running services to Dartford and Gravesham] will support continuity of care and prevent staff from being distracted by the potential for further employment changes over a short period of time. It will also enable the commissioners to establish themselves in their new arrangements, which will be in place from April 2013 and complete an effective procurement process.”

In response, Bexley CCG said: “The role of the commissioner remains unchanged by the TSA and in Bexley we are procuring services aiming at improving the healthcare services available to residents, improving patient outcomes and ensuring that public monies are spent effectively and efficiently.

“The TSA also recommended that services should be transferred from secondary care settings into new service settings.”

Bexley CCG is tendering another £24.2m-worth of other services including two urgent care centres, community clinics, a £9m cardiology contract and a £8.5m diabetes contract.

On all of the contracts the CCG wants a saving of between 10 per cent and 30 per cent on the historic budget.

A CCG spokeswoman said: “Historically, the services available to Bexley residents have been provided across a range of multiple providers that have not worked cohesively together, and this has introduced both fragmentation of the pathways, duplication of activities, less than desirable patient experience and differing levels of clinical outcomes.”