COMMERCIAL: A south London clinical commissioning group’s attempt to contract a new integrated GP out of hours and urgent care service has been left in limbo after a losing bidder initiated judicial review proceedings against the decision.

Alongside the judicial review, Grabadoc Healthcare Society has also begun separate proceedings against Greenwich CCG under Public Contracts Regulations 2006 legislation.

A report to the CCG’s latest governing body meeting warns that the legal challenges have “significantly prejudiced” plans to have the new service in place by 1 April, creating a “significant risk to the delivery of safe, responsive and effective urgent care services”.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, South London Healthcare NHS Trust

The contract includes managing urgent care at Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Grabadoc claims the CCG failed, in its evaluation of bids, to stick to an original requirement that providers would have to deliver the three year contract for no more than £13.8m.

The contract, which is supposed to start on 1 April, involves managing urgent care and out of hours services at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, as well as satellite clinics in Eltham and Thamesmead. Home visits are also involved.

The CCG’s governing body awarded the deal to another provider, Greenbrook Healthcare, at its 28 January meeting, but says it is not allowed by law to formally sign the contract until the legal challenges are resolved.

A report by the CCG’s director of delivery and service transformation, Sam Jones, said this resolution could take several months, creating a significant risk to the delivery of safe and effective urgent care services.

Her report warned: “The provider of the Thamesmead service is leaving on 31 March and both the urgent care and the out of hours providers have been unsuccessful in their bids.

“Staff within the services will no doubt be seeking to find employment elsewhere, leaving the services increasingly vulnerable to interim cover. This could lead to the performance [against] the four hour [waiting target] worsening.”

The CCG is currently considering whether to apply to the courts to have the suspension on signing the contract lifted.

Grabadoc has provided out of hours care in the area since 1995, although not always under its current name.

A Grabadoc spokesman said: “We believe there has been a fundamental misappropriation of the framework stipulated by the CCG in its own procurement process, resulting in Grabadoc being placed in a disadvantageous position. This needs to be rectified to ensure a transparent process and to ensure that a local GP health provider, which has been delivering high quality care for nearly two decades, a fair opportunity to avoid potential demise.”

He added: “We put in a bid adhering to the financial affordability parameters set during clarification, and from our assumptions and analysis of the scores we are the only party to have reached both the quality criteria and financial criteria they stipulated. We believe that by judging the bids against different financial parameters the evaluators scored bids outside the published envelope higher than ours, which was constrained to the published envelope.”

He claimed the CCG had “published one set of criteria for the evaluation of the tender but used different criteria when awarding the tender, something that is not allowed under procurement regulations even if the publication was an error and all bidders were given the information”.

Greenbrook Healthcare did not respond to an HSJ request for comment. The organisation scored 64.68 out of a 100 on the CCG evaluation score. The CCG would not reveal the names of the other bidders, although it is known that the second placed bidder scored 61.94.

A spokeswoman for Greenwich CCG said it was “taking the necessary steps to ensure high quality safe services continue to be provided for all local people in Greenwich until such time as the issues with Grabadoc Healthcare Society have been resolved”.

She added: “Given that litigation is underway, the CCG is limited as to what it can say at this time.”

Grabadoc is a 50 per cent shareholder of Grabadoc Oxleas Partnership, which bid unsuccessfully for the new contract.