NHS Privatisation of Older People Services in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

geriatric17:07 Friday 7th March 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[C]HRIS MANN: The controversial move to outsource the £1 billion contract to run a large part of the NHS in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is now to go to public consultation. This is the first area in the whole country to carry out the process on this scale, which is for older people’s services. Opponents claim their campaigning has forced the six-month delay, but the people who are organising the bidding process say it was always part of their plan. With me in the studio is Martin Booth of the union Unison at the Cambridge Health branch, and also Martin, part of a campaigning group.
MARTIN BOOTH: That’s right, yes. The Stop the NHS Sell-Off in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
CHRIS MANN: We’ll be talking to you, getting your reaction in just a moment or two. Stay with us. But first, a short time ago I spoke to Dr Neil Modha, who’s head of the Clinical Commissioning Group. Yesterday it announced the short-list of final solution bidders, with four organisations now bidding. And today they’ve announced this public consultation.
DR NEIL MODHA: So we’ve announced today our decision to take our older people’s programme work out for public consultation. The Governing Body discussed on Tuesday where we’d got to, and we felt that we have now sufficient information to give people a real opportunity to discuss and be part of the work.
CHRIS MANN: So initially there wasn’t going to be public consultation. Is that right?
DR NEIL MODHA: In fact it was always about the timing of public consultation, because we felt that when we drew up the process that it would actually need to be toward, you know, further in towards the end, when we looked to award the bidder, whereas now actually seeing the bids that have come in, there is sufficient detail for people to really truly understand what changes there would be. So we felt actually the time is right now to go out to public consultation. We changed our process, because we felt that this was the right moment to go out to public consultation.
CHRIS MANN: But am I right in thinking that public consultation wasn’t in the plan originally. You were supposed to be awarding in May weren’t you?
DR NEIL MODHA: It was always in the plan, but it was later in the stage, so it was going to be towards the end of April, May, June time, whereas we’ve brought it forward now to March.
CHRIS MANN: Is this because of the opposition to it, and the fact that there are campaigners who pressurised you into this?
DR NEIL MODHA: It’s not because of that. It is simply because we felt that this was the right time to take it out to the public, to explain the changes, explain the opportunities, and really immerse with them. And I think the previous plan had been to hold a consultation later in the year around more the holiday time, whereas this, in Spring, we felt that we’d be able to get more engagement by going out at this time of year.
CHRIS MANN: Do you think that the public still need to be won over for this, they’re nervous about these changes?
DR NEIL MODHA: I think our job as a clinical commissioning group is to make sure that we’re commissioning the best possible healthcare for our public, and whenever anyone wants to make changes, I think people do naturally get nervous. And our job is to make sure that people understand what we’re doing, what we’re trying to do, why we’re trying to do it, and the possible .. the benefits that we envisage will come. And so I .. we really welcome this time and this opportunity to engage with the public, and listen to any concerns or listen to any bright ideas that they might have, because all of this information can then be used as we move further into the procurement process.
CHRIS MANN: So would you agree that at the moment people don’t really understand the process? They’re nervous of it. They’re very worried about it. They’re not necessarily in favour of it either.
DR NEIL MODHA: So I think at the moment it has been difficult when there’s not been something tangible that people can really understand as to what will be different. So as we go through the procurement process, and we can outline the detail within the bids, we hope that we can demonstrate what this will actually mean to people. And through that information, people will then be able to engage and understand what it is that we’re talking about.
CHRIS MANN: So try briefly for us and explain please now about this short list. I know you’ve dropped .. one of the bidders are out of it, but there are three consortia led by private companies. Am I right? Virgin, Care Uk and Interserve. Briefly tell us what they’re offering.
DR NEIL MODHA: So the bidders generally are people working together. So for example the Care UK bid is working alongside Lincolnshire Community Health Service, which is an NHS Trust, and Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust. And uniting partners is one with Cambridge PTFT, the Mental Health Trust and Addenbrookes University Hospital. And Virgin Care have been talking to kind of local providers about how they work together with them, as well as Accord, who are the fourth bidder, who are working with Central Essex Community Services and North Essex Mental Health Trust. So the bids are from providers, but all providers will need to obviously work with you know community and mental health colleagues who hope to make changes for our population. And you know the main focus of all of these bids is to basically try and invest into the community. So by that I mean having more district nursing services, community matron services, physiotherapists etcetera. So more people working out in the community, so that we can therefore make people healthier and better, and have to spend less of our resource in the hospitals. And that’s the main aim, is to keep people healthy and well and out of our hospitals.
CHRIS MANN: Well only one of those four is truly local, isn’t it. This is the one with the NHS Trusts at Cambridge University Hospitals, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust, the mental health trust. They’re truly local. The others aren’t.
DR NEIL MODHA: So the others involve trusts in Lincolnshire and Essex and Norfolk. So they’re our neighbouring ..
CHRIS MANN: Would you look more favourably on the companies already in Cambridgeshire?
DR NEIL MODHA: (LAUGHS) Well you’ll know Chris that we have to have a kind of clear and transparent process though. But what we’re really looking at and scrutinising is what are the differences and what are the benefits. And you know so we want to know tangibly for our patients you know for my patients what is going to be different. So therefore what is very important is that very physical tangible difference.
CHRIS MANN: The difference is the NHS is going to be privatised, isn’t it?
DR NEIL MODHA: NHS services will still be free at the point of care, remain NHS funded, and provided under an NHS contract. So really the NHS services will be as they are now, but there will be different people, all .. Addenbrookes and the other contracts (UNCLEAR) the same people, but controlling a greater span of contracts under one roof.
CHRIS MANN: That’s Dr Neil Modha. Now he’s from the Cambridgeshire Clinical Commissioning Group, and they’re the people that run the process of finding out who’s going to run the £1 billion contract to run which is the biggest part of the NHS in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, looking after older people. Martin Booth is with me, from Stop the NHS Sell-Off campaign. Also from the union Unison. Your reaction to what you’ve heard.
MARTIN BOOTH: Well, when Neil Modha says that they were always going to have a consultation, what he didn’t point out is that they were only going to have a consultation after they’d actually awarded the contract for this huge service. So no, they never have consulted the public on the principle of putting this massive contract out to tender in the first place.
CHRIS MANN: But now they’re going to, you’re happier, are you?
MARTIN BOOTH: They are not going to do that. No. Yes, we welcome the fact that they’re going to have some sort of consulation, but we specifically asked the Clinical Commission Group this week if one of the questions that the public would be asked is do they want their services to be provided by a private organisation or not, and they said explicity no. That would not be a question that the public would be asked.
CHRIS MANN: So that’s already been decided.
MARTIN BOOTH: Exactly. It’s already been decided. Now we said all along that they didn’t have to do this. They’re claiming that they have to do it to fit the Government rules, in which case the Government are responsible for opening the whole thing up to privatisation. But there are other commissioning groups around the country that are not doing this. But instead of wasting what is close to £1 million on this exercise, other organisations have decided to work with existing NHS providers to improve the service. And that’s what we think that this commissioning group should have done all along, and should be doing now.
CHRIS MANN: But on their short list are companies which are involved in local NHS.
MARTIN BOOTH: Yes. That’s an interesting point, because as has been pointed out there were four bids that have gone in. Three are led by private health care companies, Virgin, Interserve and Care UK. The other one is being led by
CHRIS MANN: (INTERRUPTS) In partnership with Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Essex.
MARTIN BOOTH: Well maybe. But they’re quite clear who’s calling the shots in those bids. The other one is being led by local NHS organisations, Addenbrookes and the Mental Health Trust as Neil Modha’s pointed out. If this process has to go through, my own personal view I’d say is it’s certainly preferable that the contract should go to the NHS organisations. But quite honestly they could save all this time, all this money that they’re wasting on this, by cutting this whole exercise short now, and working with those organisations now.
CHRIS MANN: That’s not going to happen. The final one of the .. a fifth one has dropped out, is CCS, Cambridgeshire Community Services. The future of that is now in doubt.
MARTIN BOOTH: Well what’s happened there is that they initially teamed up with a private company Capita, who pulled out because they couldn’t see how they were going to make money on the contract. They then teamed up with United Health Care, a big American giant or their British arm. They’ve been dropped out. And CCS now are left without anybody to bid with. I understand the managers are assuring them, their staff, that they will have a future. But it does raise serious questions about what’s going to happen there.
CHRIS MANN: Martin Booth, for the moment we have to leave it. Thank you for joining me.