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Private firm suspension lifted amid payout fears

By Ian Quinn

Cash-strapped NHS managers have lifted the ban on a private provider at the centre of patient safety fears - amid claims they could not afford to cancel the contract 'without making a huge payout'.

An NHS London investigation into Clinicenta's out-of-hospital services, following the death of an elderly patient last year, had revealed ‘significant clinical, managerial and administrative failings'.

The announcement that the suspension has been lifted came as a fresh investigation into the safety of Clinicenta-run services was launched, as a day-surgery service it sub-contracted was suspended because of alleged dirty operating equipment.

An investigation by Pulse in May revealed that a catalogue of blunders and system failures contributed to the death of a 76-year-old woman, after Clinicenta took on a controversial long-term contract negotiated by the Department of Heath.

A senior NHS source told Pulse the cost of the out-of-hospital services contract - estimated at around £10m - had made it ‘next to impossible to terminate without making a huge payout'.

NHS London said: ‘This suspension has remained in place for eight months. We are now confident all of the issues have been addressed. However, we will not allow services to restart until Clinicenta is fully ready to do so.'

The Care Quality Commission, which in February said Clinicenta was providing a ‘zero star service', said a further investigation over the summer had found ‘some evidence' of improved practices but added: ‘The proof of the pudding will be in the eating.'

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GPC negotiator and GP in Harrow, said that under the Government's any willing provider policy ‘it will be impossible for all commercial providers to have the level of scrutiny Clinicenta is undergoing'.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul: 'It will be impossible for all commercial providers to have the level of scrutiny Clinicenta is undergoing' Dr Chaand Nagpaul: 'It will be impossible for all commercial providers to have the level of scrutiny Clinicenta is undergoing'

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