22 January 2014 | Will Green
A clinical commissioning group has agreed to publish tender documents around an £800 million elderly care services contract after it was threatened with legal action over failure to disclose information and involve patients.
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will publish the pre-qualification questionnaire, an “outline solutions” prospectus and the draft “outcomes framework”, which contains performance indicators.
The decision came after the CCG was threatened with a judicial review by lawyers acting on behalf of campaign group Stop the NHS Sell-Off in Cambridgeshire, which claimed the CCG was in breach of the National Health Service Act 2006 (as amended by the Health and Social Care Act 2012) and NHS guidance in its policies around patient involvement in decision-making. Lawyers also claimed the CCG was in breach of its own constitution in failing to have a procurement strategy.
In a letter to the CCG sent in December law firm Leigh Day said: “This breach of the CCG’s public law obligations is particularly serious because the CCG has chosen to implement a major procurement exercise for older people’s services at a time when it is acting unlawfully through failing to have a procurement strategy which is published on its website.”
The letter added: “At this point, it appears to our clients that the CCG is only prepared to engage with patients at a very high level of generality. However, the CCG is pressing ahead with the design of services because key decisions on the shape of services appear to have already been taken. By the time details of the proposals are made available to patients and the public it may be too late for patients to influence decisions which have already been taken.”
The CCG would not comment on whether the legal threat was the prompt for its action, but at a governing body meeting on 7 January it published a draft procurement strategy.
Dr Arnold Fertig, lead for the older people’s programme, said the CCG was “committed to openness and transparency” and it had “now reached a point in the procurement process where it can publish more information”.
He said the communications and engagement strategy was being “refreshed”, taking into account NHS guidance.
“This procurement process is about getting the best possible health services for older people and providing them in more joined-up and innovative ways,” he said.