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CCG abandons NHS 111 procurement after being unable to find ‘acceptable’ provider

One of the largest NHS 111 services in the country has had to ‘abandon’ re-procurement of its service after they were unable to attract an adequate permanent provider.

NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG have been unable to find a NHS 111 provider to take over the service across 16 West Midlands CCGs from the local ambulance trust, which took over from NHS Direct on a temporary basis in November 2013.

Commissioners said that no bid – including the West Midlands Ambulance Service Trust – had demonstrated ‘value for money’ in delivering the scheme’s future ambitions, such as integrating with GP services or offering better mental health support.

The GPC said that there was a move to integrate GP care into NHS 111, and it was a ‘positive move’ if commissioners are holding out for this.

The procurement process to deliver 111 services in the region for the next four years was launched on 28 November 2014, but now WMAST will retain the existing contract until the CCG launches its second procurement attempt this autumn.

It followed the disastrous roll-out in the region by NHS Direct, which eventually had to relinquish the contract.

In a statement, NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG said: ‘The Commissioners did not receive a bid that was acceptable and demonstrated value for money and have therefore exercised their right to abandon the procurement process.  The service will continue to deliver as it is for the short term, and will be re-procured in the Autumn.’

Dr Jonathan Leach, Clinical Director for NHS 111 said: ‘There are future plans to further develop the 111 service, integrating with in and out-of-hours GP services to provide patients with seamless 24/7 access to care and providing additional care for patients with mental health conditions, plus providing more clinical input at the call centres.’

The GPC lead on urgent care, Dr Charlotte Jones, said she did not know the details behind the bids, but said: ‘I do know the move from within NHS England and the 111 team is that they want to see more integrated services commissioned, rather than individual contracts for individual parts of the service.

‘My sense is… that the bids that were put in potentially didn’t meet that vision.’

She added that the delay was a ‘postive move’ if so.

But Dr Peter Holden, who led GPC negotiations on urgent care before Dr Jones took over the role,said: ‘The subtext that’s in there is anybody who bothered to look at the bid either couldn’t do the quality or knew they couldn’t do it for the money.’

The contract for 111 services across the six CCGs in Staffordshire was succesfully won by GP out of hours provider Staffordshire Doctors Urgent Care.

A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said: ‘We are hugely disappointed that we have not been awarded a contract to continue providing the 111 service for the West Midlands (outside Staffordshire) despite being one of the highest performing 111 providers in the country each week, for many months bringing stability to the system that was previously not there.’ 

They added that while their bid met quality standards ‘we could not agree a price for a service that we felt would be safe or sustainable.’