• NHSE has commissioned independent review into oversight of children’s autism service in Staffordshire
  • HSJ has previously reported concerns over apparent lack of intervention by CCGs

An independent review triggered by NHS England will examine the oversight and management of a troubled children’s autism service by local commissioners, HSJ has learned.

Governing body leaders for three clinical commissioning groups in Staffordshire — Cannock Chase, Stafford and Surrounds, and South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula — face external scrutiny into how the CCGs monitored a contract for children’s autism care.

HSJ has previously revealed concerns over an apparent lack of intervention by the CCGs over at least two years, into what they had acknowledged in 2016 was a service that was “not fit for purpose”.

A review in 2018 found children in crisis were not getting specialist help and were repeatedly passed between different services.

It said the two providers involved — Midlands Psychology, a social enterprise, and South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare Foundation Trust (now named Midlands Partnership FT) — had argued over which was responsible for the children.

The former was contracted for autism assessments, but there was a lack of clarity around which organisation was responsible for post-diagnosis support.

Midlands Psychology has disputed the findings of the 2018 review, as well as claims the service was not subject to proper commissioner oversight. In August 2019, the Care Quality Commission rated the service as “good”.

NHSE has already commissioned a review of the procurement process that was followed last year, in which Midlands Partnership was awarded an interim contract to run the service.

HSJ now understands the past oversight and management of the contract by commissioners is also being examined. NHSE would not comment on that specifically.

A spokeswoman for NHS England’s Midlands region said: “We are working closely with the Staffordshire CCGs to ensure that there are high quality autism diagnosis and treatment services for all children in their local areas. Part of the support we’re providing is an independent review of the service and the arrangements that led to the award of the interim contract.”

The three Staffordshire CCGs expect to announce the permanent new autism service provider later this month.