Rosie Cooper MP has reacted with utter derision at the staggering incompetence of NHS Improvement in their handling of the Liverpool community health services contract, which has now seen them walk away from their original decision.

On 7 February 2017, NHS Improvement announced there would be a ‘temporary pause’ in the transfer of Liverpool community health services to the preferred bidder, Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, after it became publicly known that the Trust received a ‘requires improvement’ rating in their Care Quality Commission inspection, despite NHS Improvement and Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group being fully aware of this before they made their original decision.

Today (Thursday 30 March 2017) NHS Improvement have announced that the planned transfer of services to Bridgewater Community Healthcare will now not go ahead.

Instead, Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust have been appointed to provide interim management with the hospital’s chief executive, Louise Shepherd, and chairman, David Henshaw, taking on those roles at Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust from 1 May 2017.

Alder Hey Hospital will be working in partnership with Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust to deliver these community health services across the city. There has been no consultation by NHS Improvement with patients, staff, or other health partners or any open process being followed in changing their original decision and abandoning the original transaction process.

At the time of the “temporary pause” announcement, West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper ‘cautiously welcomed’ the decision. Responding to the outcome of the NHS Improvement assurance review process, she said:

“NHS Improvement have today confirmed they were wrong to appoint Bridgewater Community Healthcare to run the Liverpool community health services contract in the first place.

“It is by NHS Improvement’s own hand that we now have the evidence that Bridgewater Community Healthcare were not up to the job of delivering this contract safely within the finance available and that NHS Improvement made the wrong decision.

“I think it also proves that NHS Improvement are not up to the job either.

“In the end I was right to be cautious about this pause and what it would mean for the patients and staff of Liverpool community health services.

“Health bosses appear to have pulled an Easter rabbit from the hat with this decision. So much for transparency, it seems that NHS management now just makes it up as it goes along. There appear to be no rules in this smash and grab raid!

“All that has happened is NHS Improvement have tried to rectify one horrendously bad decision only to make another equally bad decision.

“I have absolutely no confidence in NHS Improvement’s ability to put patients’ interests first and last, when it comes to health services.

“Patients and staff of Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust need certainty, stability and assurances that the harm caused by past failings will not be repeated.

“During the pause neither NHS Improvement nor Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group have addressed the significant underfunding of the Liverpool community health services contract.

“The current budget is £81.6 million; this is after the current executive team at Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust have already delivered £15 million in savings.

“After two years this contract figure will be reduced to £77 million, a further cut of £4.6 million, on top of which much more will be required to be done in the community for much less money. I understand that Liverpool CCG’s Finance Director openly talks of a future financial gap of £13million on community services. This feels like the staff will be returning to the nightmare they thought they had escaped.

“The acute trusts, who are already running their own deficits, are going to take on an under-funded community service, together with Liverpool City Council’s efforts to add their cash-strapped social care services to the mix, while there also efforts to try to merge the Royal Liverpool and Aintree hospitals.

“This pause has not tackled a single one of the issues that could bring this crashing down. All they’ve done is changed the names of the players in their game.

“I have no trust or belief, on this performance, that NHS Improvement or Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group are capable of resolving this mess.

“There needed to be a long-term solution. Instead we got the exact opposite.

“When I spoke to NHS Improvement they were unable to say how long Alder Hey hospital will be providing this interim arrangement.

“When I asked about the next steps in this process they had no answers. Why? They are still working them out was the response.

“Apparently there is going to be a Partnership Board set-up to oversee the long-term solution. Once again they had no answers as to who would be sitting on this board, except themselves. It is clear that once Alder Hey have taken children’s services, community health services will be integrated and run by the merged acute trust.

“NHS Improvement and Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group began the process to secure a new provider for community health services in the summer of 2015. Over 18 months on and we are still no closer to a meaningful solution and one that puts patients and staff first.

“Every day we hear about acute hospital trusts being under incredible financial pressures and their daily struggle to actually cope with the number of patients coming through their doors.

“NHS Improvement’s answer is to, at a stroke, without a proper plan, to add to these pressures by adding community health services to this unstable mix from a trust that between 2010 and 2014 was harming its patients and staff and is only now recovering.

“All we have from today’s announcement is the overwhelming certainty that NHS Improvement should be renamed NHS Incompetent.

“For the patients and staff of Liverpool community health services, all they can do now is hope and pray that at some undisclosed, indeterminate point in the future their needs and interests are put ahead of what is in the interests of health bosses in Liverpool and in London.”

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