• Devon commissioners likely to award children’s services to NHS consortium
  • Virgin Care bid to retain the contract
  • Contracts worth more than £250m 

Virgin Care is likely to lose a children’s contract worth hundreds of millions of pounds as commissioners are set to name an NHS consortium as preferred bidders.

Northern, Eastern and Western Devon and South Devon and Torbay clinical commissioning groups’ joint procurement team recommended to their governing bodies that Devon Children and Families Alliance be the preferred bidder for community health and wellbeing services across the county.

The alliance comprises the six main providers in the county: Torbay and South Devon Foundation Trust, Devon Partnership Trust, Royal Devon and Exeter FT, University Hospitals Plymouth Trust, Northern Devon Healthcare Trust, and Livewell Southwest (a community interest company).

The contract is worth £166m over seven years, with the potential to extend for three years.

Virgin Care is the incumbent provider, having won a children’s services contract in 2012, which prompted anger among local clinicians. HSJ understands the company submitted a bid to retain the contract.

In January, the company told HSJ it was “looking forward to… continue to integrate and improve services in Devon”.

Livewell Southwest is set to be named as preferred bidder for a second set of health and wellbeing services, which include services for children with special educational needs and disabilities.Livewell would run the service, in Plymouth, in partnership with University Hospitals Plymouth Trust, Plymouth City Council, and charities Barnado’s and The Zone, and mental health support scheme Xenzone.

That contract, also for seven years, is worth nearly £88m.

Both governing bodies of the CCGs, which hold joint meetings, will decide whether to make the providers their preferred bidders on Thursday.

Final details would then need to be ironed out before the contracts are awarded.

Shelagh McCormick, chair of the western locality of NEW Devon CCG said: “The contracts are intended to deliver a system of advice, support and services that will support children, young people and their families, at every step of their pathway; from their birth through to adulthood.”

The CCGs hope to transfer the services to the new providers on 1 April next year.

It comes after the Virgin Care provided the service for an extra year in order for the CCGs to prepare for the procurement.

A spokeswoman for Virgin Care said the company was yet to receive formal feedback from the CCGs. 

”We are proud of what we have achieved over the last six years: significantly improving the services, making them easier to access and reducing waiting times which resulted in the Care Quality Commission rating our services as ‘good’”, the spokeswoman said.

She did not say what impact the loss of the contract would have on the staff concerned.