Hospitals Trust calls for Monitor investigation into award of £238m contract to Locala

Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (the hospitals Trust) has told staff that it is lodging a formal complaint with Monitor (the NHS competition enforcer) about the Clinical Commissioning Groups’ (CCGs) award of the £238m Kirklees community health services contract to Locala.

The hospitals Trust had also bid for the contract, in partnership with the three Federations representing GPs across Kirklees (PHH, Rowan and CURO), Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals Trust and Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice.

Once Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees CCGs had publicly announced that Locala had got the contract, Owen Williams, the hospital Trust Chief Executive, emailed staff:

“You should know that we do not agree with the decision nor the process undertaken by the CCGs in evaluating and making the decision on the contract. As such we have informed the CCGs that the Trust and our partners intend to lodge a formal complaint with Monitor asking for them to commence an investigation into the CCGs’ procurement process and its impact on the outcomes for patients…

I realise that some of you have been aware that this was likely to be the case for some time, however we have not been in a position to inform you formally until now due to the CCGs’ request for us to maintain confidentiality during the procurement process”

On Wednesday 8th July Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Groups announced that they had contracted Locala as the “lead provider” for the community health services (called Care Closer to Home). The Locala company was set up in 2011 as part of the New Labour Government’s Transforming Community Services scheme.

A spokesperson for North Kirklees NHS Support Group said,

“This contract, coupled with the changes and land sale at Dewsbury District Hospital, marks another step along the road towards England’s corporate health industry replacing the NHS of which our parents and grandparents were so proud.”

A couple of weeks ago, the Health Service Journal had leaked the news that Locala had got the Care Closer to Home contract, although the CCGs refused to comment since the contract award was being challenged by the losing bidder.

The hospitals Trust stands to lose around £5m from the award of the community health services contract to Locala and its consortium, since the Trust had been providing some of the services which are now part of the Care Closer to Home contract.

This will affect some of the hospitals Trust community health staff. As well as being yet another financial blow to the Trust, which along with many other Foundation Trusts is in deficit. Monitor is breathing down its neck, compelling the Trust to make further cuts to services in order to reduce the deficit.

Piece by piece destruction of the NHS

Rosemary Hedges, Secretary of Calderdale 38 Degrees NHS Campaign Group, said:

“Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees CCGs, the guardians of our health services, in whom we trust, are handing swathes of public services to private health suppliers when they should be using our NHS for this. This is how you dismantle and destroy the NHS piece by piece.”

In response to a Freedom of Information request from a member of the public that asked what on earth was going on with the contract, which should have been publicly announced around May 27th, the Clinical Commissioning Groups justified overriding the strong public interest in transparency and accountability within the NHS, on the grounds that commercial confidentiality required secrecy.

Over a thousand members of the Kirklees public presented a petition to the Council calling for openness about NHS contract awards, but the Council passed the petition on to the CCGs.

Councillors on Calderdale and Kirklees Joint Health Scrutiny Committee went along with the CCGs’ line and failed to ask for an account of what was going on with the contract award.

The community health services contract, Care Closer to Home, involves taking services out of the hospital as a prelude to cutting acute and A&E hospital services. A public consultation about this was scheduled for last September but the CCGs shied away from it because public opposition was clear and vocal.

Calderdale and Greater Huddersfield CCGs are to consult the public this autumn instead, having already made a lot of changes to hospital services by removing a chunk of them, putting them in the Care Closer to Home contract and giving them to Locala.

Locala has told its staff:

“Our new Model of Care is a fantastic opportunity for us and the people of Kirklees and will have a positive impact on our work in other areas too. The new contract starts on 1 October and will present many huge challenges. That’s only three months away so we’ve already started preparing; we’ve had to, even before we knew the outcome of the bid, because big change doesn’t happen overnight.

We have established a pilot Integrated Community Care Team covering the areas of Dewsbury, Ravensthorpe and Thornhill and soon that will be followed by another in the Huddersfield area.”