Health service ‘could lose millions’ if East Devon contract decision stands, claims trust...

North Devon health bosses have criticised the decision to award a major contract to Exeter, saying it could cost the NHS millions.

The £65million East Devon adult community services contract which Northern Devon Healthcare Trust has operated since 2011 has been handed over to the Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust.

Competition watchdog Monitor has launched an investigation into the decision by Northern, Eastern and Western Devon CCG after a formal complaint from North Devon.

If the decision stands, the trust would be penned back to North Devon and would face major upheaval as the shared services with East Devon were restructured.

There are fears the costs to the NHS in switching staff, systems and IT services to another trust would run into millions of pounds – ironically after just reaching the end of the process following the 2011 merger.

Senior clinical and management staff who share roles with East Devon would have to choose between the two, meaning more would have to be recruited for North Devon.

The trust also feels the current opportunities for sharing and learning across both trusts would be lost.

“We believe that the CCG’s decision is the wrong one for patients and the health system, made at the wrong time and made in a potentially flawed way,” said chief executive Dr Alison Diamond.

“We believe the work to transform and improve services will be compromised if focus and energy is diverted towards organisational change – a process which is likely to take several months.

“Whatever happens with the Eastern contract, we are confident we will remain a strong, sustainable Trust and our application for Foundation Trust status will continue as planned.”

In a statement, Monitor said the case was at an early stage and it had not reached a view as to whether there has been any breach of the rules. It will publish a statement in the coming weeks setting out the issues in the investigation and invite submissions from interested parties.

Dr David Jenner of the CCG said: “We welcome Monitor’s investigation and remain confident that our decision is the right one and in the best interests of our patients.”