West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has issued a warning to local health bosses that scrutiny of their decision to procure health service contracts won’t stop once they’ve announced their preferred provider.

MP Rosie has been campaigning against West Lancashire CCG’s actions in tendering some urgent care services and community health services along with excluding Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust at the first stage of the bidding process.

Over 4000 people have signed petitions opposing plans for private companies to deliver NHS services including local walk-in centres, and expressing their concern that this decision will destabilise the future of local hospital services in Ormskirk and Southport.  Currently the hospital trust is delivering both contracts which will end on 31st March 2017.

In February 2016, West Lancashire CCG announced that two private companies, Optum Health Solutions (UK) and Virgin Care Services, would go forward to compete to provide some urgent care services.  The same two private companies are also in the running for the community health services contract along with Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Throughout this time MP Rosie has raised a series of questions and concerns with various health bodies including West Lancashire CCG, NHS England and NHS Improvement.  Often these agencies, West Lancashire CCG in particular, have hidden behind ‘commercial confidentiality’ to avoid answering important and legitimate questions.

MP Rosie Cooper said:

“When West Lancashire CCG finally award these two contracts I wish to assure them scrutiny of this process and their decision will not end.  Far from it!

“Openness and transparency should be an integral part of the process, which sadly it has not been, irrespective of any alternative claims by the CCG.

“The extent of the secrecy surrounding this process is a concern that I have already raised with the Commons Public Accounts Committee and with the National Audit Office.

“There have been too many occasions when ‘commercial confidentiality’ has been deployed to avoid answering questions that actually wouldn’t have revealed any commercial information.

“There are too many instances in the health service where the lack of scrutiny has only led to patients being failed.

“When our local hospital, currently delivering these services, is losing contracts for locally commissioned services without a proper detailed explanation of the reasons to private companies and other NHS providers there are serious questions that need answering.

“These are taxpayer funded services, not the personal fiefdoms of the CCG governing body.  They will be held accountable for the decisions they take.”

NHS England have introduced a new assurance framework to review the awarding of NHS contracts.  This is following the serious failures in Cambridge and Peterborough CCG awarding UnitingCare Partnership an £800 million, five-year contract.

In response to the sustained raising of concerns, MP Rosie Cooper secured a commitment from NHS England that they would review West Lancashire CCG’s procurement process for these two contracts against their new assurance framework.

MP Rosie understands that the review took place between 25 and 31 October 2016, commenting on this situation, MP Rosie Cooper said:

“I welcome the additional review of the tendering for community health and urgent care services here in West Lancashire.  Commissioners and regulators need to avoid repeating the same mistakes we saw with the UnitingCare Partnership shambles.

“In the interests of openness and transparency, I believe that NHS England’s review should be made publicly available.

“There is already too much secrecy within the NHS.  We need more scrutiny not less.”

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