Multi million contract switch ‘must be in the best interests of patients’ says Monitor...

Health watchdog Monitor has said local commissioners need to do more to ensure the decision to award a major contract to Exeter at the expense of North Devon is in the best interests of patients.

It was speaking after publishing provisional findings into how the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) chose Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust as its preferred provider of community services for adults with complex needs in East Devon.

Northern Devon Healthcare Trust had lodged a formal complaint after hearing it was losing the multi million contract, saying it was the wrong choice for patients.

Monitor said today (Friday) the CCG hasn’t yet fully assessed the scope of the services or value for money its preferred choice would deliver.

It said in the next stage of its process it should ‘properly evaluate’ whether the Exeter proposal will offer efficient and good quality services.

“The CCG is trying to develop new and better ways of caring for patients in Devon, by integrating care and offering more services closer to home,” said Catherine Davies, executive director of co-operation and competition at Monitor.

“Efforts like these to modernise care are vital for making sure the NHS works well for patients, and we want to make sure the CCG gets it right for local people in East Devon.

“At this stage our view is the CCG still needs to take a number of steps to ensure it gets to the right result for patients using community services.”

Doesn’t uphold complaint

NDHT, which has run community health and social care services in East Devon since 2011, welcomed Monitor’s call to give value for money for patients but said the findings did not uphold its complaint that the procurement process was unfair and unclear.

Alison Diamond, NDHT chief executive, said: “We fully support the CCG and community’s efforts in creating a strategy for excellent local services which meet the needs of people in or near their own homes.

“At a time when Devon is entering the Success Regime to support the local health system deal with its financial challenges, we welcome Monitor’s provisional findings.

“We look forward to discussing the opportunities of further integrating services with the RD&E to ensure we continue along the journey of transforming services to the benefit of patients.

“Monitor has conducted an extremely professional and thorough review of the procurement and tender process for this group of community services.

“To our staff we say thank you and well done for continuing to provide such excellent care amid ongoing uncertainty.”

‘The right thing for patients’

Dr David Jenner, eastern locality chairman of NEW Devon CCG, said the findings reflected their determination to do the right thing for patients, in line with what they said they wanted.

“It is fantastic news for patients and public alike and means that, subject to the final report, we can now press ahead with integrating our services to bring huge benefits to people, providing care as close to home as is clinically possible,” he said.

“In practical terms it will make it easier for patients to be treated in all parts of the pathway into and out of hospital and remove confusion in the system for patients and the public alike.

“Investigations such as this do require a huge amount of administrative and managerial time to comply with information requests from Monitor. We would have preferred for this time to be focussed on the very real challenges of improving health and care services.

“Today’s report vindicates our procurement approach to identify a provider who will improve the quality and efficiency of services while also meeting the needs of the public who use those services.”

Proceeding with transition

The CCG said it would now proceed with its transition process within eastern Devon, undertaking a period of due diligence on the RD&EFT to determine if a contract can be awarded for adults with complex needs services. It will also oversee the transitional work between the RD&EFT and NDHT to ensure the safe transfer of services.

* Monitor is consulting on its findings until June 26 and will make its final decision in July. Anyone wishing to respond can email coopandcompcases@monitor.gov.uk