• Commissioners to re-procure integrated children’s services in Devon
  • Current provider Virgin Care likely to bid
  • Contract value could rise to £370m if extended

Virgin Care has indicated it will bid for an NHS contract to provide children’s community and mental health services in Devon worth at least £259m over seven years, HSJ has learned.

The company is the incumbent provider of most of the services being tendered after winning a contract in 2012.

A company spokesman said: “We’re looking forward to… continue to integrate and improve services in Devon from April 2019.”

Virgin’s contract was due to expire in the spring but last October it was given £35m to continue to run the service for another 12 months while Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group prepared for re-procurement.

The re-procurement process will begin next month, subject to the proposal being approved at a governing body meeting today.

The contract will cover services currently provided by Virgin such as tier two and three CAMHS, assertive outreach, crisis response, palliative care, learning disability services, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and health visiting.

It will also cover similar services run by Torbay Council, Torbay and South Devon Trust and the community interest company Livewell South West, whose contracts expire in April 2019.

The contract will last seven years with the option to extend by another three years, which would take its value to £370m.

A report to the CCG’s governing body said commissioners contacted 900 individuals and organisations for feedback about Virgin’s service ahead of the re-procurement, including more than 200 children, young people, parents and carers.

The provider of the new contract will be tasked with making improvements to the services in areas such as integration, care coordination, technology and access.

Both CAMHS and autism services have been identified as having gaps in care and long waiting times, which the CCG hopes the new provider will address.

Children and young people have faced waits of up to 18 months for a diagnosis of autism, the report said.

The procurement is split into two lots: one for the Devon County Council and Torbay Council footprint; and one for Plymouth City Council’s footprint.

The CCG’s preferred option is to pursue a prime provider model but discussions are ongoing about whether another model will be used in Plymouth.

Virgin’s service was rated good by the Care Quality Commission in June, though the regulator highlighted long waiting times for assessment in CAMHS that needed improvement.

In Virgin’s latest quality account, published in September, the company reported scoring 94 per cent in the friends and family test.

It is possible the new contract may include other services as the CCG is aiming to “integrate as many services as possible around children and young people” over the next few years.

Other services could be integrated with those that fall under the re-procurement, the CCG documents state.

For example, while the community paediatrics service will still be delivered by acute hospitals, the CCG “expects those paediatricians to work as part of an integrated team of nurses and therapists that are likely to be employed by this new provider”.

The CCG did not give further examples of further services that may be integrated when asked by HSJ.