07:07 Friday 20th March 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: Here’s our lead story this morning. Concerns raised about a ground-breaking Cambridgeshire NHS health contract. It’s due to take effect in two weeks time. It’s worth £800 million, and is the biggest single outsourcing of an NHS service in its history. On 1st April the contract to look after older people across the county will be managed and maintained by a brand new company called UnitingCare. It’s made up of a consortium between Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the CPFT. In a moment we’ll be talking to two people who’ve raised concerns about the changes, but first here’s part of a video, produced by United Care that’s been posted on their website, which explains what they do.
(MALE VOICE 1) We’re looking after an increasingly aging population with more complex diseases, more co-morbities. Now what we want to do is provide really joined up care for them.
(MALE VOICE 2) Care of older people is often badly affected by the fact that several organisations are trying to be involved, and that people fall between the cracks in the service, and often end up with care of the last resort in hospital.
(FEMALE VOICE 1) Working within an integrated partnership will allow us to provide consistency across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and that service will be available to everybody across that area, which is important.
CHRIS MANN: So glossy video, very slick website, but is it all really as good as that, and how is the changeover going to happen? Concerns raised first of all by Steve Sweeney, who’s Regional Officer of the GMB Union. Hello Steve.
STEVE SWEENEY: Good morning.
CHRIS MANN: And thousands of your members will be involved in this.
STEVE SWEENEY: Well there’s thousands of members of staff that are involved in this, and of course some of those are our members. That’s right. And what we’re saying at the moment, as you pointed out we’re two weeks away from that transfer and there’s still some level of uncertainty of how that’s going to pan out.
CHRIS MANN: Let’s be clear. You were against this contract from the beginning.
STEVE SWEENEY: Yes that’s right. There’s no great secret. We opposed the outsourcing. As has been pointed out it’s the biggest tender in NHS history. We had some very real concerns that it was going to be awarded to the private sector, and we had concerns over how it would impact on care of older people. So we opposed it from the start. Our favoured bid was the UnitingCare Partnership bid. That was the bid that we favoured, because it in a way kept it within the NHS.
CHRIS MANN: But with two weeks to go, you’re concerned. You’re very concerned actually. Why?
STEVE SWEENEY: We’re worried that there’s still this level of uncertainty. And one of the things that ..
CHRIS MANN: What are you uncertain about?
STEVE SWEENEY: We don’t know how things are going to look for staff. We don’t know how things are going to look in terms of the service. And as we understand it the transfer is happening as an ‘as is’ transfer, that means that things should remain exactly the same on 1st April, the service will be developed from there. And we think that because of the nature of how the contract has been run we’ve been kept in the dark for large periods of it. We had to put Freedom of Information requests in during the course of the tender to try and extract information we thought we should have been entitled to. But we think because of the rushed nature of it, it seems to be rushed through. We’re two weeks away, and there’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered.
CHRIS MANN: OK. Let’s bring in another guest, Dr Helen Brown who’s Chief Executive of the Carers Trust Cambridgeshire. Morning Helen.
HELEN BROWN: Morning Chris.
CHRIS MANN: And what do you do exactly, your organisation?
HELEN BROWN: So we supply, we provide care and breaks, information and advice for unpaid family carers who are looking after somebody with a long term condition or illness or disability.
CHRIS MANN: And you just heard the concerns of Steve Sweeney of GMB. What do you think?
HELEN BROWN: We think this is such a major change, our concern really is that masses of the population of Cambridgeshire aren’t aware of the extent of the change that’s going on. And in particular I think the UnitingCare bid day one won’t be any different from the day before, and evolve it is a reasonable approach. But it’s a huge change that had to happen. We do need to make changes. But it’s all predicated on business service, keeping people out of hospital, all absolutely the right things. What that means though is it puts a much greater burden on people at home having to look after somebody, either in the short term or the long term. And it has to pay for it, and I’m not sure everybody quite realises that.
CHRIS MANN: Yes. I’ve heard some personal tales from people who’ve been trying to get information and haven’t been able to, and they’re deeply worried that at the end of the current situation and the start of the new one that it will just fall off the end of the earth. Is there going to be a crisis on April 1st?
HELEN BROWN: I don’t think there’ll be a crisis. I think, reading the website and we’ve been to different engagement exercises by UnitingCare. What one carer told us was that it was very aspirational and great to hear, but light on detail. And I guess that’s probably no surprise in the situation they’re in, but we do need to be involved in putting the detail to the actual plan.
CHRIS MANN: You know there was a big change over at Addenbrooke’s, end of last year beginning of this year, to the eHospital system Steve Sweeney, and a great deal of concern raised about that, because it was such a major change. The first hospital in Britain to go onto this digital system. Is this similar?
STEVE SWEENEY: I’m not sure it’s similar ..
CHRIS MANN: It’s a major change obviously.
STEVE SWEENEY: It is a major change, and I think what Helen has just said is the sort of feedback that we’re getting from our members in terms of the aspiration of the contract. And there’s lots of great ideas, and keeping people out of hospital of course is extremely worthy. But it’s the detail that we think is missing at this stage.
CHRIS MANN: And you’ve asked for it.
STEVE SWEENEY: We’ve asked for the detail. We’ve held some meetings with CPFT. We’re trying to arrange another one before the transfer to raise our concerns. But I think that’s the thing. It’s the detail that’s missing, and we don’t know how that’s going to shape over the course of the contract.
CHRIS MANN: Well the key thing, this is supposed to improve people’s care. Will it, or will other people be worse off? What is your view?
STEVE SWEENEY: The idea is that it’s going to improve patients’ care, and of course that’s very worthy. But we have concerns over how that’s going to operate, and whether that is actually going to happen, because of the nature of the contract. But of course we support any move that would do that, but we think that that could be done in a different way, which would have meant that things wouldn’t have been so rushed.
CHRIS MANN: Helen Brown. Same question to you. Do you fear that anybody’s health care will suffer as a result of this? Maybe that it’s going to improve long term, but in the short term there’s going to be some problems.
HELEN BROWN: I think it will improve long term and we absolutely have to change. There will only be problems if the different organisations don’t work together very well. We call it a system, but really people’s care is partly UnitingCare, it’s partly GPs, it’s partly the local authority and the district councils. And we all will have to make it work rather than just sketching to one plan. And I think the voluntary sector has a big role to play in this. So UnitingCare have said they’re very keen to try and work with the voluntary sector, but again I think in terms of the detail and the plan we’ve still got to get to that.
CHRIS MANN: OK. Well we’ve been asking the CPCCG, that the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group and UnitingCare to talk to us on air this morning about the new contract since it was awarded in October. They declined to appear today. We will be hearing from them next week I am told. .. Thank you to Dr Helen Brown Chief Executive of Carers Trust Cambridgeshire. Thank you Helen.
HELEN BROWN: Bye Chris.
CHRIS MANN: And also Steve Sweeney GMB Regional Officer. Thank you Steve.
STEVE SWEENEY: Thank you.