COMMERCIAL: Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group did not break procurement regulations when it appointed a preferred provider for a £100m community services contract without going to tender, Monitor has provisionally found.

However the regulator said the CCG must “do more to ensure that their decision… is in the best interests of patients” and warned that if it did not do further work it would probably “breach” procurement regulations.

The decision is a provisional view and could change when Monitor publishes its final findings later this summer.

In January, Monitor launched an investigation into the CCG’s decision to choose Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust as preferred provider for the contract after it received a complaint from Northern Devon Healthcare Trust.

The three year contract was for community services in the eastern part of NEW Devon’s patch, and is due to go live in October.

Northern Devon, which has provided community services in the area since April 2011, claimed the CCG’s selection of Royal Devon was not competitive, not transparent, and affected by conflicts of interest.

Monitor’s provisional findings are that NEW Devon’s procurement process, which is still ongoing, had not breached transparency requirements, had not been discriminatory and was not affected by conflicts of interest.

However the regulator said the CCG had not “yet fully assessed the scope of the services or value for money that its preferred choice would deliver”.

Therefore, “in the next stage of its process it should properly evaluate whether this provider’s proposal will offer efficient and good quality services which give the best value for money.” 

If it proceeded to award the contract to Royal Devon on the basis of the “limited information” it had collected so far it “would be likely to be in breach” of regulations, Monitor said.

Catherine Davies, Monitor’s director of cooperation and competition, said: “The CCG is trying to develop new and better ways of caring for patients in Devon… efforts like these to modernise care are vital for making sure the NHS works well for patients, and we want to make sure the CCG gets it right for local people.”

But, she added: “Our view is that the CCG still needs to take a number of steps to ensure it gets to the right result for patients.”

David Jenner, NEW Devon’s Eastern locality chairman, said: “Today’s report vindicates our procurement approach to identify a provider who will improve the quality and efficiency of services while also meeting the needs of the public who use those services.

But he also said Monitor’s investigation required “a huge amount of administrative and managerial time to comply with information requests”, which the CCG would have preferred to spend on “improving health and care services”.

Alison Diamond, Northern Devon’s chief executive, said the trust welcomed “Monitor’s provisional findings which set out how the CCG needs to determine an outcome that delivers sustainable and high quality services and represents value for money for patients within this challenging context”.

Angela Pedder, Royal Devon’s chief executive, said Monitor’s findings gave the “green light” to “a new way of working that wraps care around individuals”.

Monitor has launched a final round of consultation lasting until 26 June, giving the CCG and both trusts the opportunity to comment on the provisional findings and submit additional evidence.

It intends to publish its final decision in July.