COMMERCIAL: The transfer of a £500m contract for community services to the private sector has been delayed due to complications over primary care trust estate.

Assura Medical was due to take on Surrey Community Health by 1 January. However, a letter to staff from chief executive Alison Edgington, seen by HSJ, confirms the handover has stalled.

Ms Edgington writes: “Due diligence for this contract is a complex process with a significant amount of work to be done before it can be completed…

“Complicating the arrangements for safe transfer is the 55 property leases that require valuation and agreement.  Many of NHS Surrey’s properties have multiple occupation so agreements have to be reached with all tenants so that each party, including NHS Surrey as the landlord, understands its responsibilities.”

The letter also said Assura, which is owned by Virgin Healthcare, had not received Care Quality Commission registration for the Surrey services, although this was expected by the end of the month.

Unison branch secretary Sarah Hayes said staff had been told to expect the transfer by the end of January although discussions were still ongoing about terms and conditions.

“In terms of property there needs to be a considerable amount of refurbishment and we are concerned about the level of investment Assura will make on a five-year contract,” she said.

A spokesman for Assura declined to comment while the procurement process was ongoing.

Assura was named preferred bidder for the contract to provide services in the west of the county. It beat two local social enterprises due to a lack of GP support and NHS Surrey’s demand the contractor paid a £10m bond as a surety.