• NHSE has agreed to investigate concerns raised by MP Andrew Griffiths over procurement of children’s autism services in Staffordshire
  • National commissioner’s review comes in response to request from health secretary last week
  • Follows previous concerns over quality of services and gaps in contracting 

NHS England has agreed to investigate concerns raised by an MP about a clinical commissioning group’s procurement of children’s autism services following a request from the health and social care secretary.

Matt Hancock wrote to NHSE chief executive Simon Stevens last week, asking him to investigate concerns raised by Conservative MP for Burton Andrew Griffiths about the procurement of a children’s autism service in South Staffordshire.

Earlier this year, commissioners in South Staffordshire decided to reprocure children’s autism diagnosis services, which were previously provided by social enterprise Midlands Psychology.

The Staffordshire CCGs’ decision followed an independent review last year, which was highly critical of Midlands Psychology and the children and adolescent mental health service provider — Midlands Partnership Foundation Trust — for putting children with autism at risk. NHSE has also held multiple risk summits this year due to concerns over the services. 

Midlands Psychology’s contract was due to cease at the end of September this year. This meant either their contract would need to be extended or a new interim provider found until the procurement for the new service was complete.

However, on 30 August, the CCG decided it would not grant a service extension to Midlands Psychology, giving the social enterprise one month to hand over services to Midlands Partnership FT, which was later chosen as the interim provider.

Following this, Mr Griffiths wrote to the health and social care secretary and claimed the procurement of an interim children’s autism service was a “shambles” and “made up on the back of a fag packet”.

His concerns related to the CCG awarding the interim contract to MPFT and not a provider called ”Derby Mental Health Services”. The MP claimed he had been told by CCG accountable officer, Marcus Warnes, the interim contract could not be delivered by MPFT, as it was also the CAMHS provider. 

However,HSJ understands the provider, ”Derby Mental Health Service” pulled out of the bidding process for the interim contract.

In a letter to Mr Stevens, Mr Hancock said he was not close enough to the situation and asked the NHSE chief executive to investigate further.

In a statement to HSJ, an NHSE spokeswoman said: “Further to this letter, the regional director for the Midlands has been asked to review the matter and is now doing so.”

Last month, HSJ revealed previous leaders of South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula CCG provided only “minimal” oversight of the children’s autism services, despite concerns being raised. Multiple reports were found to have flagged concerns over the contracting of the services, which had left some children without support in times of crisis. 

HSJ approached the CCG for comment. 

This article was changed to reflect that the correct name of the provider mentioned by Mr Griffiths was ”Derby Mental Health Services”, not Derbyshire Healthcare FT, which confirmed to HSJ it was not involved. 

HSJ Transforming Mental Health Summit

The HSJ Transforming Mental Health Summit, taking place at the Hilton Leeds from 28-29 November 2019, unites 120+ senior figures from across the NHS, local authority and wider mental health service delivery landscape to discuss how to realise the visions of the NHS long-term plan and ensure successful local implementation of national priorities.

Held under the Chatham House Rule, attendees will quiz Paul Farmer and other national figures on general policy direction and co-develop solutions to their local challenges with NHS and local government colleagues from across the country. The summit is free to attend for senior NHS and public sector figures.

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