COMMERCIAL: Primary care trusts in the North West are close to concluding a framework agreement which will establish a single list of approved continuing healthcare providers for the region..

Documents seen by HSJ say that providers bidding to join the framework contract must submit their prices by 4 April, in response to a final offer schedule issued on 21 March.

The deal has been driven by findings from a programme sponsored by the strategic health authority NHS North West. A “worst case scenario” found that if new continuing healthcare cases continued to grow at the present rate the

cost to the region would grow by £167m over the next five years.

The “best case scenario” for North West PCTs was a 33 per cent increase in continuing healthcare placements over that period, at an additional cost of £93m.

The programme also found a “highly variable demand” for continuing healthcare across PCTs, with a seven-fold variance in activity and a two-fold variance in price.

A report on the work presented to NHS Salford directors in January, said: “Whilst the CHC market is highly fragmented in the North West, with [around] 4,000 providers across the region, it remains largely provider led with significant price variation for similar service offerings.

“Many PCTs continue to ‘spot purchase’ packages of care without robust contract management arrangements in place and lack formal service specifications with clear expectations around quality.”

The programme, led by the Cumbria and Lancashire Commissioning Business Service and the North West Collaborative Commercial Agency, recommended PCTs in the region scrap individual negotiation on continuing healthcare in favour of collaborative commercial approaches.

It also recommended PCTs agree standard service specifications, quality standards, and a common approach to pricing.