COMMISSIONING: Twelve primary care contracts in Merseyside have been put out for re-tender – including 11 contracts held by troubled provider SSP Health.

Dr Rob Barnett, secretary of Liverpool Local Medical Committee, told HSJ the original contracts awarded to SSP Health were “unworkable” and did not “stack up financially”.

SSP Health was controversially awarded the contracts for 20 practices in Liverpool and Sefton in August 2013, 11 of which were awarded by Liverpool Primary Care Trust.

Concerns were raised about services at some of the practices in September 2013 and NHS England was “working with” the provider to resolve “reports of poor patient experience”. Four of SSP Health’s practices were rated “inadequate” by the Care Quality Commission last year.

Dr Barnett said: “Concerns were raised about the ability for any organisation to provide a quality service based on what was expected… SSP probably took on more than they could.”

He described the new contracts being tendered by Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group as similar to general medical services contracts and “much safer and doable” than the previous arrangements.

HSJ understands that Liverpool CCG decided to end two of the contracts held by SSP but offered the provider one year extensions for eight others. SSP opted to extend five, leaving seven contracts in need of immediate management. The CCG invited Liverpool GP practices to manage the remaining contracts from 1 April 2016 until 31 March 2017.

All of SSP Health’s contracts are now up for re-tender, with the intention of finding new providers from March 2017.

The twelfth contract refers to two practices the CCG intends to merge.