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CCG faces legal claim against out-of-hours tender decision

Three CCGs have found themselves embroiled in a legal battle over the tendering of their local out-of-hours service, after the existing not-for-profit provider called in the lawyers.

A former GP co-operative that has run the service for nine years told Pulse that it had launched a legal bid against the CCGs in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland after commissioners selected a ‘recommended bidder’ for the service.

The CCG refused to say who the recommended bidder was, but the local LMC says it is becoming increasingly concerned as the current provider’s contract is due to expire on the 31 March.

A spokesperson at NHS North of England Commissioning Support Unit said the procurement process was ‘fully compliant with the relevant procurement legislation’ and considered a broad range of criteria. 

She said: ‘The procurement process has ended and recommended bidders have been notified. However, since all bidders have been notified – a legal challenge has been made which prevents the CCGs from awarding contracts. 

‘As commissioners, we are now urgently considering the challenge. As a result we will not be able to make any announcement regarding the outcome until the challenge has been resolved.’

Northern Doctors Urgent Care Limited confirmed that it was taking legal action over the procurement process, but was unable to say on what basis it had launched the legal process.

A spokesperson for Northern Doctors said: ‘We hope to be able to issue a statement soon, but we have taken legal advice on it so we have to listen to that.’

Northumberland LMC chair Dr Jane Lothian said the LMC was becoming increasingly concerned at the length of the procurement process.

She said: ‘We thought that there would be a decision on the award of the out-of-hours contract a long time ago and we would know the outcome by now, but we have actually not been able to find out anything. We are actually getting rather concerned now and it is on the agenda to discuss at our meeting on Thursday.’

Commenting on the end of the current out-of-hours contract, she said: ‘It is at the end of March, so it really is a very short space of time.’

Readers' comments (9)

  • Welcome to commissioning. This is a risk with any procurement process and timescales can be de-railed, no matter how robust the procurement process as all challenges need a formal response and this inevitably adds to the timeframe.

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  • Bob Hodges

    In anticaption of this nonsense and the resulting chaos, Gloucestershire scrapped it's procurement process and rolled over the existing (good) NHS provider's contract for a 18months. Reasons cited were service stability and integration, the ongoing mess of NHS111 and the utter stupidity of handing over to a private provider who's won the contract on an unrealistic undercut bid in the middle of a winter.

    Looks like a stroke of Genius now.

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  • Well we live in interesting times don`t we?
    Hopefuly the local patients don`t get a service worse than they already have there due to this spat.
    OOH has been sinking to the lowest common denominator for sometime and this is no different.

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  • NDUC provide a fantastic localised service, and it is worrying that such a good provider can be cast aside due to a politically driven agenda. We are seeing this accross the country currently with CCG led procurement processes, and it appears to be pot luck as to whether such processes are conducted correctly.

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  • The problem here is the competitive tendering of GP OOH Services which has been on a 'race to the bottom' approach since 2004. Commercial Providers have been prepared to lose significantly on GP OOH services to gain a foothold in the market for more lucrative NHS contracts. Witness Harmoni that accumulated losses of £9 million taking contracts from Social Enterprises and selling the contract portfolio to Care UK for £48 million. The Northumberland based organisation involved in this legal challenge itself took an OOHs and Urgent Care contract from the very well regarded local GP-led organisation in Bath so pretty much a case of 'the biter bit'.
    Sadly the competitive tendering of OOH services which has acted against integration and the involvement of local GPs in their local service is now being used as the model for tendering the rest of the NHS.

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  • As above anonymous poster mentioned the Northumberland based OOH undercut existing providers elsewhere to secure OOH contracts elsewhere -I am not sure what the weightage is for cost versus quality but the word on the street is they under cut a local OOH in South Staffs by a huge margin. Provided the local CCG can justify their weightage of cost versus quality measures its afraid a case of "What you sow is what you reap".
    Interestingly many OOH providers are calling themselves not-for-profit . Some charities have have CEO earning several millions per year. Not a "charity" in commonsense but maybe in law.

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  • OOH for me means a visit to A&E because we haven't a clue who will turn up at our, what skills they have other than the title 'GP' or how good they are at their job.

    I find it quite strange that a vulnerable patient at home alone, can then allow a stranger into their home and be able to physically examine them! We hear of 900 doctors with criminal offences, including sexual abuse, still being allowed to practice!

    Any GP with a criminal records fro sexual offences should be struck off for the first offence, no matter how minor, then maybe you could restore our faith in the NHS.

    The patient doesn't appear to have a voice any more, although we are told it is 'OUR NHS, OUR CHOICE' from all i have read, patient choice has dropped off of the NHS agenda!
    As a patient of the NHS, my first choice OOH would be a trip to A&E if a situation arose that really couldn't wait!

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  • 9.54 anon - this site is for health professionals only so naff off

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  • NDUC gave the best presentations and offered the best service. They made a technical mistake in the final bidding process and were excluded. This was a total travesty. Competetive tendering sucks

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