• Court papers allege Central Surrey Health was told a procurement challenge “may impact negatively” on other bids
  • Surrey Downs CCG deny the claims

A company was told that if it pursued a procurement challenge against a clinical commissioning group it could damage its chances of winning more work, court documents allege.

Central Surrey Health lodged papers with the High Court claiming the managing director of Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Group had tried to warn it off seeking a remedy to a procurement dispute relating to a £100m community services contract.

The papers said at a meeting between the bodies “it was suggested by [CCG managing director] Colin Thompson that any challenge to the defendant’s proposed course of action may impact negatively on any future bids submitted by the claimant”.

They added: “Further it was stated by Colin Thompson that, as the defendant was part of the wider Surrey Heartlands region (in which the client held its two other contracts) the defendant would not expect the claimant to pursue legal proceedings.”

The CCG’s legal representatives denied the claims in court last week.

The CCG had awarded the contract to the Integrated Dorking, Epsom and East Elmbridge Alliance, which consisted of Central Surrey Health (the incumbent provider), three GP federations and Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals Trust, the latter of which was the lead provider.

After disputes about control within the alliance, the other four members claimed CSH had withdrawn from the contract, due to launch at the start of this month.

CSH denied this and last month a court granted an injunction against the start of the contract, in order to consider the company’s claim that without its involvement the contract agreed by the CCG was invalid.

A judgement is due on the claim today.

CSH was the incumbent provider, and had run the service in that area since 2006.

The joint IDEEA bid was the only one received by the CCG for the contract.

In their legal submission, CSH also said that the then CCG chair Claire Fuller had “intimated that an independent tender from the claimant would not be successful”. It said this conversation took place between Dr Fuller and CSH’s then chief executive Stephen Cass in October 2017.

Mr Cass left CSH in May this year and took up a new role with Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals Trust. He had been chief executive at CSH since June 2017.

In a statement issued last month, CSH’s former non-executive director and now chief executive, Steve Flanagan said: “After significant efforts to negotiate a satisfactory outcome, we have been left with no choice but to launch legal action against Surrey Downs CCG, who decided it was appropriate to continue with the contract award without CSH.

“Launching legal action was done with a heavy heart and absolutely as a last resort – we are still committed to resolving the situation as quickly as possible and have made numerous attempts to continue negotiations with the CCG and IDEEA partners.”

CSH’s most recent accounts show a 2017 turnover of £32m and an operating profit of £322,000. It employed 801 people and paid its highest paid director £162,000.

A spokeswoman for Surrey Downs CCG said: “Patient care remains our top priority and we continue to work with all parties to ensure continuity of care, and continuity of services while this matter is resolved. As the legal process continues we are unable to comment further at this time.”