A Devon commissioner’s plan to award community services contracts without putting them out to tender has been resisted by competing providers and a local authority.
The opposition was revealed as the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group received around 260 responses to a consultation on the plan which was unveiled earlier this summer.
Among its proposals, existing provider Plymouth Community Healthcare will retain one contract and take over another, while Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust will take over a contract currently held by Northern Devon Healthcare Trust.
CCGs are not legally obliged to formally tender services provided they can demonstrate not doing so is in the best interest of patients, however this is open to challenge under procurement rules introduced under the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
While Devon County Council and other NHS providers are understood to have stopped short of a formal challenge, sources said “robust discussions” were taking place.
Concerns have been raised by the NHS providers set to lose out and the council, which has asked the CCG to “reflect” on one aspect of its proposals.
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HSJ understands the authority is unhappy about the CCG’s plan to transfer the contract for community services in South Hams and West Devon from Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care Trust to the social enterprise Plymouth Community Healthcare.
Council social workers have worked closely with trust staff since the trust began running the service in 2011; Torbay is keen to keep running the service it said had improved under its stewardship.
Unions are also understood to be unhappy as the proposal would involve staff transferring out of the NHS.
Plymouth Hospitals Trust and Northern Devon are resisting aspects of the plans affecting the CCG’s western and eastern patches, respectively.
Plymouth has indicated it would welcome the chance to play a greater role in providing community services. Its chief executive Ann James told a recent board meeting the trust wanted “the opportunity to integrate provision across service lines”.
A spokeswoman for Northern Devon said it had “delivered significant transformation of the community services” since 2011 and “would like to earn the right to continue delivering those services”.
The CCG argued the changes would provide more integrated and “seamless” services for patients by aligning community services more closely with patient flows into acute hospitals. Its chief officer Rebecca Harriott told HSJ respondents to the eight week consultation had been “largely supportive” of the CCG’s overall strategy for community services, but there had been “mixed messages about our procurement proposals”.
She said the governing body would take a final decision on its procurement approach in October after considering all responses.
A spokesman for the council said: “We’re asking the CCG to reflect on an element of their proposal, but we’re confident that questions we have at this stage are resolvable, and that the outcome will be the very best for people who use the community services.”
The CCG spent around £121m on community services in 2013-14.
Information supplied to HSJ