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Virgin among firms in frame as NHS bosses put child health services out to tender

NHS managers in Devon have put a contract out to tender to run core child health services, in what is believed to be the first such deal ­ despite GP opposition stopping similar attempts elsewhere.

NHS Devon and Devon County Council have shortlisted three bids to run integrated children¹s services in the county, in a three-year contract which could be extended to five years worth an estimated £130m.

Two of the three shortlisted bids are led by private firms ­ Virgin Care and Serco ­ while the third comes from the Devon Partnership NHS Trust, the charities Barnado¹s and Young Devon and construction firm Interserve. The shortlisted bidders are to submit their final bids by 30 April, with a recommendation expected in June.

The move comes after Pulse revealed last year that NHS East of England had given the go-ahead to two PCTs to launch competitive tender processes for musculoskeletal and frail and elderly care pathways.

But NHS South East Essex and NHS Luton told Pulse last week that neither went ahead. NHS South East Essex said the process was stopped 'after feedback from GPs' who wanted to work with local providers.

Elsewhere, NHS Hampshire has also rethought plans to put pathways out to tender, although NHS Calderdale said it would be seeking bids for its intermediate care services in May.

Dr Steven Laitner, associate medical director of NHS East of England and a GP in St Albans and an adviser to the QIPP Right Care programme, said although  plans in Essex and Luton had not gone ahead, the SHA was continuing to have 'active discussions with commissioners'.