Suffolk: Ten key questions on �140m health contract

TODAY, The Ipswich Star is publishing the answers to the ten hard-hitting questions posed to Serco, the private company that has signed a contract to run Suffolk’s community healthcare services.

Serco was selected by NHS Suffolk to provide services including district nurses and community hospitals – winning the contract worth around �140million. The company is expected to take over the contract by the autumn.

The Star demanded to know what measures were in place if something happened to the company, the future of the staff currently employed in community services and how its performance will be monitored. We have printed the answers here.

Julian Herbert, NHS Suffolk’s acting chief executive, said: “The contract signing marks a major milestone in the journey towards finding a new provider for community health services in the county. Serco has been carefully selected and we believe it will provide improved care for patients and new opportunities for staff.

“Importantly, the care that patients receive will still be NHS care and community health services will still be part of the NHS.”

Paul Forden, managing director, acute care for Serco said: “We are delighted to have been given this opportunity to deliver NHS community health services and invest in improving the care for people in Suffolk.”

The Star put ten questions to Serco - and today, we print their answers.

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1. What process did you have to go through to get this contract? Name the leaders of this bid.

Serco went through the competitive process set by Suffolk PCT.

2. What expertise did you show to be given the contract?

We had to demonstrate to the PCT relevant and meaningful expertise in the provision of health care.

3. What is your track record in terms of experience of handling huge budget to run community health care services?

Our activities within the health care sector are wide-ranging. We have played a central role in developing a revolutionary approach to Pathology Services and we are responsible for Cornwall Out of Hours GP services which have just been shown to be consistently one of the best performing services in the country in terms of speed and effectiveness of clinical assessment.

4. What makes you the right organisation to run these services in Suffolk?

The partnership approach developed by Serco will create a unique model of delivery for Suffolk to address local health and geographical needs, simplifying services to make sure patients get better access to services and address the needs of Suffolk patients – both rural and urban.

5. What can you say to the NHS staff who will be transferring to work for you and may have concerns about working for a private firm?

Staff should be reassured that we share their focus – and that is the patients. It is still an NHS contract.

Furthermore Serco is a FTSE 100 company that employs over 35,000 people in the UK.

6. What words can you say to reassure your NHS colleagues that the transfer of their skills to a private firm will lead to neither a lessening of their terms and conditions nor a weakening of the service to the Suffolk public?

Staff will transfer to Serco under TUPE – Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations. NHS colleagues will remain on NHS terms and conditions when they transfer.

7. What measures are in place to run these services if something happens to your company?

Evaluation of the company’s accounts was a major part of the bidding process to ensure that a viable provider was selected. Serco is financially secure.

8. How are you going to ensure the level of service is up to standard?

Serco will be subject to all the same scrutiny and performance management as Suffolk Community Healthcare is currently. Furthermore we believe that it is important to listen to staff, patients and their families in order to continuously improve the services and care that we provide.

9. How will you ensure the Suffolk people see value for money in the services you will be providing? What are your plans to improve community services?

We intend to invest several million pounds to improve the quality of the services provided and will tell people more about our plans as soon as we can.

Strict guidelines are being included in the contract to make sure high quality services continue to be offered to patients that deliver value for money. Serco will be subject to the same quality assurance measures as all other community health care service providers.

10. How can you be monitored if you are not subject to Freedom of Information requests?

Serco will be subject to all the same scrutiny and performance management as Suffolk Community Healthcare is currently. Quality and performance standards set nationally on all contracts for the NHS ensure that patient and public involvement/empowerment is vital.

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