COMMERCIAL: NHS 111 services are set to be re-procured for nearly all the West Midlands under a single large exercise, clinical commissioning group papers reveal.

The current regional lead commissioner of the non-emergency medical helpline, Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, has recommended a single exercise as the most cost effective option to the 21 other CCGs in the West Midlands.

According to a paper from the group’s August board meeting, Sandwell & West Birmingham was requested by the West Midlands CCGs to undertake an “options appraisal” for the re-procurement.

Following the failure of NHS Direct as its initial 111 provider in 2013, the service is currently provided by the West Midlands Ambulance Service and Staffordshire Doctors On-Call. The contract runs until September 2015 at the latest, meaning “urgent decisions” need to be taken now to re-procure it in time.

The three options considered by the CCG were a single exercise; two exercises, with the three Worcestershire CCGs procuring independently; and “multiple” exercises across the West Midlands.

According to the paper the three CCGs in Worcestershire – Redditch and Bromsgrove, South Worcestershire and Wyre Forest – had previously intended to undertake an “independent procurement process”.

However a spokesman told HSJ the three CCGs subsequently decided to procure with the other commissioners in the region.

A single exercise was recommended by Sandwell and West Birmingham as the least costly and risky option.

The CCG estimates the costs of procurement will be between £300,000 and £500,000, but says this would be multiplied by the number of independent processes.

Multiple procurements would also potentially involve complex workforce movements under the transfer of undertakings, protection of employment (TUPE) regulations.

However the paper adds that “a single procurement exercise does not mean a single provider, a single service specification or single contract across the West Midlands”.

It is expected CCGs will divide into geographical “lots” with their own service specifications.

Sandwell and West Birmingham will now take forward the procurement on behalf of all the West Midlands CCGs, with the exception of Herefordshire CCG which is still to decide whether to join the process.