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Suffolk’s privatised community healthcare run by Serco set for NHS return as hospitals named preferred bidders

PUBLISHED: 11:00 19 May 2015 | UPDATED: 15:04 19 May 2015

Community healthcare services provide vital help to around 650,000 people in Suffolk, such as community nursing, specialist nursing, community hospitals, speech and language therapy, dental services and specialist childrens services.

Community healthcare services provide vital help to around 650,000 people in Suffolk, such as community nursing, specialist nursing, community hospitals, speech and language therapy, dental services and specialist childrens services.

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The NHS is set to retake control of Suffolk’s privatised community healthcare later this year, it has been announced.

Suffolk’s two biggest hospitals, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust, and Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust have been confirmed as the preferred bidder to deliver NHS community health services in the county.

The NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), who awarded the contract, said patients “will continue to receive the same safe, high quality services” by the “same staff in the same locations”.

Community healthcare services provide vital help to around 650,000 people in Suffolk, such as community nursing, specialist nursing, community hospitals, speech and language therapy, dental services and specialist children’s services.

Serco, the private company currently running Suffolk Community Healthcare, announced earlier this year it was withdrawing from the service after making losses of £13.7 million on the contract in 2014.

The private healthcare giant was awarded the £140 million, three-year contract in 2012.

The CCGs had been critical of the company’s failure to meet response targets in its early stages, but said that, overall, they were satisfied with the service, which had improved.

It will continue with the contract until the new provider takes over on October 1.

Although the value of the new contract is not being revealed because it has not been signed and is commercially sensitive, it will be worth more than the previous contract, the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk CCGs said.

The additional funding has been found from the government’s increased allocations for the CCGs and savings made in 2014/15.

The NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG received £423 million – an increase of 5.5% – from the government for 2015/16 and the NHS West Suffolk CCG was given £274 million – an increase of 2.3%.

The new contract lasts 12 months, with an option to extend for another 12 months by mutual agreement.

Earlier this month, UNISON regional organiser Jeff Keighley claimed the successful bidders will be unable to operate without making losses like Serco’s or significant cuts to jobs and services.

But when asked if the deal represented a risk for the region’s hospitals taking over the contract, a NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk CCG spokesman said: “All NHS organisations in Suffolk have been honest and open about the ongoing financial pressures they face over the coming months and years. “Budgets are undoubtedly tight and demand is increasing across all areas of the health sector.

“The development of more partnership working is key to ensuring quality care can continue to be delivered.

“West Suffolk and Ipswich hospitals and NCHC will work in partnership with the skilled workforce of Suffolk Community Healthcare to introduce new ways of working together.”

The spokesman said commissioners “anticipate” there will not be any job losses.

In November 2012, Serco announced, month after took over the contract, there would be a net loss of 137 posts but no compulsory redundancies.

The CCG spokesman said: “The commissioners do not anticipate any job losses among staff. Services are to remain as they are currently commissioned apart from minor changes to accommodate additional need.

“The same experienced and dedicated staff will continue to deliver the same services in the same locations. It is recognised and acknowledged that Suffolk Community Healthcare staff are dedicated and hardworking individuals who play an important role in the health and wellbeing of local people.

“The new providers will soon begin offe ring workshops and information events for Suffolk Community Healthcare staff so the transition process is seamless and stress- free.”

Nick Hulme, chief executive of the Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust, said: “Today’s news brings a new era to the way in which we can provide seamless care in the hospital and in the community.

“We are breaking new ground in the way we have worked with our partners in putting together our proposal and would like to thank them and the many members of our community who have helped shape our bid.

“We look forward to closer working with our GP, social care colleagues and community staff whose contribution is key to the success of this venture.

“We see this as the start of a journey of integration, with improved community access and efficiency to provide sustainable quality care in Suffolk.”

Abi Tierney, chief executive of Serco, said: “I am immensely proud of the team in Suffolk and of the work they have done over the past three years.

“Despite the operational and financial challenges we have faced, we are now delivering a first-class community service for the people of Suffolk and it is arguably now one of the best in the country.

“Everyone has worked tirelessly to deliver that service and we will ensure that we go on doing so until the end of our contract this autumn so that we hand it over in excellent order to the new providers.”

Professor Dr Stephen Dunn, chief executive at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The announcement of preferred bidder supports our existing work, long-term plan and those of our partners, to deliver the highest quality health service through integrated working.

“In practice this means patients will benefit from a partnership of local NHS trusts with experience in delivering award-winning care.

“By providing a more joined-up service we will be able to break down the organisational barriers that can get in the way of great patient care.

“Together we will make the most of opportunities for community services, primary care, hospitals and social care to work together to reduce pressure across the system and provide the right care, in the right place at the right time.”

Julian Herbert, accountable officer of the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups, said: “We were determined to find the right organisation to deliver safe, high quality community healthcare services for the population we serve.

“Over the coming months, we will be working with the current provider and the new providers to ensure a smooth and seamless transfer of services. We want patients to continue to receive good quality community healthcare services.

“I would like to offer my thanks to the hard working staff at Suffolk Community Healthcare who do a marvellous job in making local healthcare ser vices the best they can be.”

Roisin Fallon-Williams, chief executive of Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, said: “This is an innovative, collaborative bid we have entered into with West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust.

“There is a great deal of work we still need to do but today’s news of preferred bidder status signals a new approach to the way in which we can work together across the local NHS to provide seamless community care.

“We look forward to working with the excellent clinical teams across Suffolk.”

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