Serco is gearing up to bid for the Cambridgeshire Community Services Trust contract and expand its NHS portfolio, the company’s director of community services Sharon Colclough has indicated to HSJ. 

Serco is preparing to bid for the contract to run community services in Cambridgeshire as it seeks to extend its work in that sector, the company’s director of community services Sharon Colclough has indicated to HSJ. 

Ms Colclough, in an exclusive interview with HSJ, said it was likely to bid for services currently run by Cambridgeshire Community Services Trust, which were put out to tender last month.

She also revealed the company expected to make a profit on its existing contract for all of Suffolk’s community care services, despite doubts raised by unions.

Ms Colclough said Serco wanted to use its running of Suffolk Community Healthcare as a springboard to win more community services and other NHS contracts.

Ms Colclough said: “We are definitely looking at Cambridgeshire. We stand in a really good position because we will be able to show what we can do in Suffolk.

“Our care co-ordination centre [its Suffolk administrative headquarters] gives us the platform to do admin across anywhere in anyway in terms of healthcare. We could do the administration for a whole hospital or for a whole system.”

Ms Colclough, who has extensive NHS experience including as chief executive of Queen Victoria Hospital Foundation Trust, said Serco hoped to drive service improvements and savings in Suffolk by increasing the face-to-face time frontline staff spent with patients from under 40 per cent at present to 60 per cent.

“Our care co-ordination centre sits at the heart of everything.  

“Every district nurse has a laptop. When they go to see a patient they have their record in front of them, they don’t have a pile of paper notes which they have had to go and pick up in the morning from the office.

“The idea is that referrals will come in; they will be sorted by the care co-ordination centre and they will be given their schedule the night before. We are not there yet but that is what we are working towards.”

Serco won the Suffolk contract, which began last October, after bidding £140m to run services for three years, £10m less than the well-regarded incumbent provider, North Essex Partnership Foundation Trust.

Unions were outraged when Serco announced in November plans to cut 137 posts, and said it would make services unsustainable and mean patients “suffer”.

However, following further consultation, managers revised cutting plans down to 90 posts, many of which will come through natural wastage.

Tim Roberts, Unison regional organiser for Essex and Suffolk, told HSJ: “While we disagree with many of their plans, they have demonstrated a willingness to listen to concerns raised by both staff and the union and we welcome that.”  

However, Mr Roberts warned delivering the contract for £140m was very challenging, and Serco’s inability to cut the pay bill as much as it had planned would exacerbate this.

“We expect them to run up a loss,” he said.    

Serco said it expected to make profits of around “six to seven per cent” over the life of the contract, but admitted this would not happen in the first year.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commission Group began a tendering process for the Cambridge Communities Services contract last month. Tender documents said the contract would begin in April 2014.