Weekly updates and essential insight into the NHS in the South West, by Will Hazell

It was HSJ which first broke the story that Southern Health Foundation Trust could be split up into different parts in the wake of the Mazars report.

The report, which was published last December, highlighted failures by Southern Health to properly investigate and learn from patient deaths, and the trust has been under huge pressure ever since.

We already knew that learning disability services in Oxfordshire were going to Oxford Health Foundation Trust.

Now my colleague Sharon Brennan reports that some of the trust’s specialist learning disability services will be transferred to Hertfordshire Partnership University FT.

From next month, people in Buckinghamshire currently looked after by Southern Health will have their care transferred to the Hertfordshire trust, along with most of the staff who care for them.

The restructuring of Southern Health is the brainchild of interim chair Tim Smart, who led a review that concluded the organisation operated “across too broad a spectrum of clinical services and too wide a geography”.

If that is correct then let’s hope the changes result in more personalised care for service users and not just another NHS exercise in rearranging the deckchairs.

Salisbury splashes out on extra nurses

Salisbury Foundation Trust has earmarked nearly £300,000 for additional nursing staff.

The funding was approved following a Care Quality Commission report in April, which highlighted nurse staffing levels as a potential “risk to patient safety”.

On one ward the regulator found a nurse to patient ratio of one nurse per 16 patients at night. With the additional staffing, the ratio will improve to one nurse to 11 patients.

It looks like Salisbury has done the right thing from a quality and safety perspective. The trust did not appear on NHS Improvement’s list of providers with “significant paybill growth in excess of inflation and pension effects”, so maybe that’s given the board a bit more room to manoeuvre.

Virgin Care preferred bidder in Bath

Last week Virgin Care was announced as preferred bidder for a seven year contract to deliver community services in Bath and north east Somerset.

The contract covers over 200 health and social care services which are currently delivered by more than 60 organisations and worth £69.2m a year.

If the contract is formally awarded to Virgin Care in November, it will add to an already extensive footprint the company has established in the South West.

In April, Virgin Care started delivering a children’s community services contract in Wiltshire.

The Wiltshire contract has a similar rationale to what’s planned in Bath and north east Somerset – bringing services previously provided by different organisations under the umbrella of a single provider to join up care and iron out variation.

The firm also runs integrated children’s services in Devon.

In Bath and north east Somerset, Virgin Care beat a consortium led by Sirona Care and Health which included two NHS providers – Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust and Royal United Hospitals Bath Foundation Trust.

A lot of discussion has revolved around the commissioners’ claim that Virgin Care will not make a “margin” on the contract.

But it’s also worth thinking about the impact on Sirona, which currently delivers much of the services.

Losing that income will be a huge blow to the social enterprise.

A couple of key questions present themselves: will Virgin Care as prime contractor end up subcontracting any of the provision back to Sirona?

And if it doesn’t, what will the implications be for Sirona’s long term financial sustainability?

Deep South

Deep South is HSJ’s email briefing on the NHS in the South West of England.

It takes an in-depth weekly look at a region which is one of the NHS’s most innovative, but also one of its most turbulent. The patch includes the cities of Bristol and Bath, through Wessex and Dorset, and all the way down the peninsular to Lizard Point.

Please get in touch with any suggestions about what you’d like to see covered and any story tips: will.hazell@emap.com