• Procurement process for contracts worth £25m abandoned
  • Halton CCG threatened with legal challenges after contract earmarked for private provider

A procurement process which named a private provider as the preferred bidder for contracts worth £25m has been abandoned, after NHS trusts threatened legal action.

HSJ understands Halton Clinical Commissioning Group had chosen One Primary Care - part of One Medical Group - as the preferred bidder to run two urgent treatment centres, but was warned of a challenge from at least one of the incumbent NHS providers last month.

GP practices in the borough, who were involved in a joint bid to run the services with NHS providers, had also written to CCG leaders to express concerns. Local MPs criticised the plans as well. 

The centres in Runcorn and Widnes are currently run by Warrington and Halton Hospitals Foundation Trust and Bridgewater Community Healthcare FT respectively. The contracts were together worth an estimated £5m per year and were for a five-year period.

The CCG said in a statement: “During the ‘standstill’ period (when unsuccessful bidders can challenge the process) we were asked to consider a number of points by the unsuccessful bidders.

“We are confident that the outcome was correct, however considering the technicalities raised within the unsuccessful bidders letter and the impact of a legal process, in terms of cost to the NHS and more importantly the delay in implementing a new service model to improve patient care, the CCG governing body took the decision (on Friday last week) to abandon the current procurement whilst future options are being considered…

“In the interim, we will continue to work with the current providers of the urgent care centres to ensure that services are provided in line with the needs of local people.”

It is understood that local GPs were involved in the design of the service, and expressed disappointment that their joint bid with WHHFT and St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals Trust was unsuccessful.

The tender notice, published last year, said the new service model would be based on a nationally-mandated set of requirements to create urgent treatment centres, which seek to standardise services provided at walk-in centres, urgent care centres, and minor injury units.

Rachel Beverley-Stevenson, chief executive of One Primary Care, said: “We are in ongoing discussions with all parties and are disappointed that we have not had chance to work on a new model of wellness-led urgent care with the local GPs and the wider system.

“We are natural collaborators, putting patients first by delivering first class urgent care services in a number of locations, and we were committed to implementing our successful model for the benefit of the people of Halton.”

The company said it successfully runs urgent care centres in Derby, Sheffield, Bracknell and Corby.

When asked about the risk of the company now making a legal challenge, a CCG spokeswoman said: “In terms of the preferred bidders position, they continue to be incredibly professional and whilst clearly disappointed with the position, they do not intend to pursue any costs or recourse, and have in fact reaffirmed their commitment to do all they can to positively engage the local clinical community and do what is right for local people.”

Story updated on 4 July to clarify that it was One Primary Care, part of One Medical Group, which was the preferred bidder, and to include a statement from the firm that was issued after HSJ’s deadline.