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MPs speak out against hospital service 'auction'

Nadhim Zahawi, MP for Stratford-on-Avon, and Jeremy Wright QC, MP for Kenilworth and Southam.
Nadhim Zahawi, MP for Stratford-on-Avon, and Jeremy Wright QC, MP for Kenilworth and Southam.

SOUTH Warwickshire’s three Conservative MPs this week joined the battle against a decision to launch a bidding process for a key NHS facility in the area.

Two of them — Stratford-on-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi and Warwick and Leamington MP Chris White — accused health service bosses of wasting time and public money on the exercise.

And the third — Kenilworth and Southam MP Jeremy Wright, who is also the Attorney General — asked the South Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group (SWCCG) to explain why it had decided to look for changes to a system that was ‘already working well’.

The row centres on the SWCCG’s decision to put out to competitive tendering its out-of-hospital community service, a contract worth £227 million over seven years.

The service is currently provided by the South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust (SWFT), which is being forced into bidding for the contract along with anyone else who throws their hat into the ring.

It’s being claimed that the cost to the taxpayer of this procedure will be around £1million, of which £300,000 will be spent by SWCCG itself on consultancy fees.

Another £400,000 is expected to be spent by SWFT in an attempt to keep the service it has run satisfactorily to date, with the rest being made up of costs to other NHS bidders such as the Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership Trust.

'Financial crisis'

Professor Anna Pollert, chair of the South Warwickshire Keep Our NHS Public (SWKONP) campaign group, said: “This CCG decision has been made in spite of the financial crisis facing the NHS.”

This week Mr Zahawi told the Herald: “I am very disappointed that South Warwickshire CCG has decided to run a competitive tendering process to determine the provider of community services.

“SWFT and local GPs have done excellent work to create an integrated system and provide these local services. It is clear they would be the only capable future provider.

“I wrote to the CCG last September outlining my view that this would be a costly and unnecessary process. I had hoped the CCG would back down, so it is a real shame to hear that they have started the process, without even informing the existing provider, SWFT, or their staff.

“I urge the CCG to reconsider their position and recognise that as there is no legal need to run this consultation, it will be an entire waste of valuable time and resources.”

Mr White, who has also written in protest to Dr David Spraggett, the chairman of the SWCCG, told the Herald: “The collaboration between SWFT and our local GPs is an excellent opportunity to continue to improve our local NHS services.

“However, the CCG has unilaterally and in my view, unnecessarily, embarked on a process that will waste time, take up valuable resources and most probably conclude with the same provider — namely SW NHS Trust.

“There is no legal obligation on the CCG to take this course of action — demonstrated by the fact that other local CCGs have opted not to follow competitive processes for the same services. I urge the CCG to rethink this decision and to recognise the professionalism and the quality of care that exists at SWFT.”

And Mr Wright, whose constituency includes the villages of Wellesbourne and Kineton, said: “I happen to think that South Warwickshire Foundation Trust and South Warwickshire GPs, including the GP leadership of the Clinical Commissioning Group, have done a good job collaborating in the provision of community services in our area.

“The CCG must therefore explain why they do not simply wish to proceed with this apparently successful arrangement.”

But Mr Wright added that it was not sensible to see a “privatisation agenda” in every decision.

Prof Pollert said: “NHS England has embarked on a programme which encourages collaboration, rather than competition, in health care across England.”

She added: “In Warwickshire out-of-hospital services should therefore be built on a model of collaboration and co-operation across the whole of the county, with South Warwickshire Foundation Trust, which currently delivers this service with high measured patient satisfaction, continuing to provide it, along with the South Warwickshire GP Federation.

“Both Coventry and Rugby and North Warwickshire CCGs are continuing on this path. But the competitive tendering by SWCCG of out-of-hospital services is in direct conflict with the current NHS England emphasis on regional cooperation. Is the CCG determined to stymie a Warwickshire-wide collaborative service for community care?”

But Dr Adrian Parsons of NHS South Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Our planning in relation to community services is rooted in our intention to the get the best possible care for people in south Warwickshire.

“As family doctors, seeing patients day-in, day-out, we know how important our community services are, especially to frail elderly people and patients with multiple long-term conditions. Our patients regularly tell us they want a health and social care system that is more joined up and easier to navigate. The integration agenda, breaking down barriers between organisations and between primary and secondary care are key themes of the Five Year Forward View and are central to the CCG’s view of the future.

“However, integration is only one consideration that the CCG must have regard to. The community services contract is worth up to £227m over seven years and as a public body we must be assured that we are awarding that contract to the most capable provider.

“In order to satisfy this statutory requirement, after careful deliberation, the CCG has decided that a competed process that draws on the views of local people and complies with NHS process rules is the best way to meet these obligations.

“We are committed to involving local people and health professionals in the process and have already demonstrated that commitment through an engagement programme that has involved public meetings, briefings for individual organisations, including our incumbent provider, and regular newsletters.

“We have listened to what local people have told us and used their feedback to shape our plans for community services and will continue to involve our patients, public and other stakeholders.”

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