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CCG circumvents competition rules and renews all local GP contracts to protect patient safety

Practices have been saved from re-applying for their local enhanced services under Any Qualified Provider after CCG leaders in one area argued that competition was not needed as only practices could guarantee the safety and quality of their services.

Pulse has learnt that NHS Rotherham CCG has decided to extend its existing GP-held contracts, but will be publishing a voluntary transparency notice on the Supply2Health procurement portal to allow for potential competitors to come forward for future consideration.

Following the decision, community service contracts – formerly known as LESs – worth £616,000 in total, including an anticoagulation service, an aural care service, a blood-monitoring service and a LES for secondary care services provided in primary care, will now continue to be provided by local GPs without the need for a competitive process.

The move bucks the trend for CCGs, who have put the majority of new contracts out to competition since the new regulations came into force in April.

It comes despite Rotherham CCG acknowledging in a supporting document published on its website that four of the seven LESs concerned – worth an aggregate £592,000 – did not fulfil all of the conditions that would allow for them to be continued without being put out to competition because they could ‘potentially be provided by other compliant and qualified providers’.

However the CCG opted to disregard this in the interest of patients because GPs advantage of holding patient lists meant the services were safer, of higher quality and ensured accessibility of the services to patients. The CCG further highlighted that these contracts represented less than 0.2% of the CCG’s portfolio and ‘should be considered in the context of other procurement priorities in the next two years’.

The document said: ‘[T]here is a strong view that the current positioning of primary care facilities and their access to a patient list is a key element of the safety, quality and accessibility of these services.’

The document concluded: ‘Members of the Rotherham CCG governing body are asked to approve the continuation of the contracts for services… with existing providers [and] the publication of a voluntary transparency notice on the CCG website and Supply2Health.’

With regards to the transparency publication, the document added: ‘If expressions are received, Rotherham CCG will consider whether other suppliers in the market can provide the service and whether a tender is required.’

Minutes of the CCG’s October board minutes said: ‘The governing body agreed to continue with the current contracts [and] approved the publication of the voluntary transparency notice on the CCG’s website and Supply2Health and agreed to review its outcome within 6 months. All LES procurements will be reviewed in 12 months’ time.’

The CCG took measures to avoid accusations of conflict of interest by stressing that no GPs concerned were involved in the decision.

A CCG spokesperson told Pulse: ‘It’s important to note that all GPs on the governing body left the room for this agenda item due to potential conflicts of interest.’