• Southern Health to retain community services
  • Trust has reversed last year’s divestment plan
  • Chief executive says keeping services offers “considerable scope” to integrate mental and physical health services

Community services will remain at Southern Health Foundation Trust after the new leadership team opted against a proposed divestment.

Southern Health FT is planning to retain its community services and will work with commissioners to design a “new model of care” for out of hospital care in Hampshire.

Last summer it emerged the trust was considering divesting its community services, which make up roughly a third of its income, and a plan was laid with the county’s clinical commissioning groups to retender the community contract in April 2019.

But a new chair and chief executive, Lynne Hunt and Nick Broughton respectively, were appointed last autumn along with a new executive board, and this spring the trust’s board has concluded that retaining the services is the best choice for patients.

Among the main reasons for the reversal are “some significant financial risk” around the trust’s estates and workforce if services are transferred, according to governing body papers from North Hampshire CCG.

The risk has not been “quantified”, the papers say. The trust’s contract with commissioners for the service is worth £90m per year.

Local NHS officials also believe running a full procurement resulting in a potential transfer of services would not “allow” the trust to focus on making improvements to its mental health and learning disability services.

The trust has been heavily criticised for its mental healthcare provision after several patient deaths, which resulted in prosecutions and external reviews.

Learning from the NHS’s vanguard projects is also cited as one of the reasons Southern Health should keep its community services, because a “key conclusion” is that “improved outcomes and reduced costs come from collective trust and clinical and multiorganisational ownership of the service delivery points”.

The trust has been involved in the Hampshire Better Local Care vanguard. Dr Broughton told HSJ this work had given its staff “significant expertise and experience” in running effective community services.

Instead of running a procurement next year, the CCGs have chosen to codesign a new care model with the trust.

There will be a “decision point” in 2021 to “confirm the approach to potential procurement of the new care model of service”, the CCG’s governing body papers said.

Dr Broughton said: “The board is fully committed to providing community services, and we welcome the support from system partners for this approach.

“By retaining community services there is considerable scope for more ambitious integration of mental and physical health services for the benefit of patients.”

“We are now working with patients and their families, commissioners, primary care and social care colleagues to develop new care models.

“These models will improve access, experience and outcomes for patients in the community, reducing avoidable hospital admissions and improving prevention and self-care opportunities for people.”