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Serco “underestimated” community health service complexity

PUBLISHED: 07:00 30 September 2015

Archant

The outgoing chief executive of Suffolk Community Healthcare has admitted the private firm which has been running the service did initially underestimate its complexity.

But Abigail Tierney has insisted that Serco has left a positive legacy in the county’s community health provision, with more power being devolved to team leaders and an increasing number of good results from patients and families.

Serco’s three year contract to run the service comes to an end on Thursday, with a consortium including Ipswich and West Suffolk hospital trusts taking it on for one year.

Speaking ahead of the change Dr Tierney, who will soon take up a post in Leicestershire, said: “At the start of the contract there were a few challenges.

“I started 18 months ago and when I came in we were struggling to meet the KPIs (key performance indicators) and it was clear that staff felt disengaged with Serco. The CCG at the time were concerned with our performance.

“While we were struggling with the KPIs, at no point did staff become disengaged with patients, so the quality of care remained high.

“I think we had underestimated the complexity of the services. I spent a lot of time listening to staff and talking to them.”

The problems encountered by Serco have included major delays in providing equipment and at one point bosses at the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group declared “the honeymoon is over” for the firm.

However, improvements have been made in recent months, which health bosses have hailed.

Dr Tierney said among the improvements they have made include mobile working for staff and devolving projects and funds to team leader level, with the aim of giving them more ownership of the service.

She also said the group had worked closely with Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals and Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust to ensure a smooth transition to the new providers.

She added: “Given the money that Serco has lost on this contract, they could have decided to exit a couple of years ago. Serco chose not to do that and have chosen to invest in the service.”

Dr Tierney has also said that, in the future, she believes the service would benefit from having a provider with a contract of 10 years or over, to give staff more continuity.

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