East England community services contracts suspended

5 March 2010

5 March 2010 | Jake Kanter

The Department of Health (DH) has instructed all primary care trusts (PCTs) in the east of England to suspend and review community services deals.

It follows problems that arose over Great Yarmouth and Waveney (GYW) PCT’s tender for community services last year, which blocked private and third sector suppliers from bidding directly for the work.

GYW thought it was following DH guidance that said the NHS should become the “preferred provider” of care. But pressure groups complained and prompted the DH’s Co-operation and Competition Panel to examine the legality of the move. That panel was investigating the GYW tender but the suspension order means there is now no case to judge.

The DH said guidance issued in February insisted trusts follow proper procurement procedures when going to tender with community services contracts. GYW and 13 other PCTs in the east of England will now have to review their procurement plans for community services provision in line with that guidance.

Mike Parish, chair of the NHS Partners Network, whose members include commercial and not-for-profit suppliers, lodged the original complaint with the competition panel. He said: “We believe that underlying this decision is recognition that ‘NHS only’ procurement is unacceptable and potentially unlawful.

“The DH’s approach to community services is deeply concerning. The approach will need to be challenged if it leads to the awarding of uncontested contracts or unjustifiable structural changes which are not in the interests of patients and taxpayers and could run contrary to the principles of procurement law.”

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