• Four CCGs in Staffordshire have abandoned the procurement of a £535m contract for end of life care services
  • Commissioners say development of STP means the contract is no longer needed
  • New assurance process for large NHS contracts deterred CCGs from following through with the tender as it would mean “more hoops to jump through”

A tender worth half a billion pounds for end of life care services in Staffordshire has been abandoned due to the development of the area’s STP and difficulties satisfying the new national scrutiny process, HSJ has learned.

North Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent, Cannock Chase, and Stafford and Surrounds clinical commissioning groups have abandoned the procurement of the £535m “prime provider” contract, which started in 2013.

Palliative care

The end of life care contract would have had ‘more hoops to jump through’ under a new national process

Marcus Warnes, accountable officer for North Staffordshire CCG, said the procurement has been stopped because the emergence of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent sustainability and transformation partnership means there is no longer a need for a “service integrator” between providers and commissioners.

He also said the new national assurance process for large NHS contracts, introduced after the collapse of the UnitingCare Partnership deal in 2015, means there are “more hoops to jump through nationally”.

The news follows a decision by the CCGs in April to abandon the procurement of a £687m prime provider contract for cancer services, after the only bidder failed to convince commissioners the contract was financially viable.

HSJ understands that the procurement process for both cancer and end of life care contracts has cost the CCGs £840,000.

Mr Warnes told HSJ: “The NHS landscape has changed significantly. We started the [procurement] process four or five years ago, and the world was a very different place. Since then the key changes have been the Five Year Forward View and introduction of STPs.

“Our STP covers a whole range of areas, one of which is end of life care. The procurement covers four CCGs and obviously the STP has six CCGs, so the procurement didn’t cover the whole area.”

Mr Warnes added that “a lot of the building blocks that weren’t there previously are there now” and there was less of a need for the prime provider to act as an integrator between providers and commissioners in the region.

“I would not be in a hurry to go out to tender now in the way we did four years ago,” he said.

In November, NHS England set out the “integrated support and assurance process” – the new criteria for large local NHS contracts to meet. This was done in response to the collapse of the £750m UnitingCare contract, commissioned by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG.

On the new process, Mr Warnes said: “Due to the nature of the [end of life care] contract, [and] given there are new tests… we would have more hoops to jump through nationally and I think the view was it would be difficult to do that.”

Mr Warnes said the CCGs’ intended to have a two year mobilisation period before deciding whether they would hand the contract over to the successful bidder.

However, under the new process, “it would be difficult to satisfy some of those national conditions given that [the national bodies] would be looking for certainty now”, Mr Warnes added.