A host of private health firms are battling for a £284m NHS contract for Kirklees.
Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group (GHCCG) and North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group (NKCCG) have embarked on a project to overhaul how health services are provided.
They have now put out the multi-million tender for the so called “Care Closer to Home” community health services.
NHS activists in Huddersfield have said there “is no place for private profit in the provision of health and social care” and called on Kirklees and Calderdale councils to use their powers to stop the tendering process.
The new scheme will expand on the services currently provided by Batley-based community nursing firm Locala, whose contract expires in March next year.
The Care Closer To Home contract will take on and develop further the services currently operated by Locala – including health visitors, speech and language therapy, district nursing, foot care and physiotherapy.
Locala has announced it will bid for the contract.
Health officials at GHCCG and NKCCG say they want to “redesign community health services across the entire system” and are also hoping to develop new services allowing health workers to treat people in their own homes, avoiding visits to hospital and better managing long term conditions and post-hospital recovery.
The CCGs held a “market sounding” open day for potential providers last week in a bid to probe what services could be provided as part of the £284m contract. The identities of companies competing for the five to seven year deal are not being revealed for commercial reasons.
NHS organisations such as Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (CHFT), which runs the hospitals, are also allowed to compete for the lucrative deal.
CHFT recently lost a contract to continue to run wheelchair services for Kirklees and Calderdale after it was undercut by private firm Opcare by several million pounds.
The Care Closer to Home project is linked to health chiefs’ desire to provide more services outside of Huddersfield, Halifax and Dewsbury hospitals.
A re-structure of services at Calderdale Royal Hospital (CRH) and Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI) has been proposed but a public consultation was put on hold after health chiefs said they wanted to see how well the new out-of-hospital services worked before they slashed or re-structured hospital wards.
A major part of the favoured hospital proposal is to downgrade A&E at CRH and cut the number of beds as it is transformed into a “planned care” centre for operations and out-patient services.
HRI would become the region’s major emergency centre for “unplanned care”.
A similar plan for north Kirklees by the Mid Yorkshire NHS Hospitals Trust has already been given the green light by the Health Secretary.
The announcement of the tendering of Care Closer to Home contract has angered NHS activists including 38 Degrees and Huddersfield Keep Our NHS Public (HKNOP).
Paul Cooney, secretary of HKNOP, said: “We oppose the tendering of the Care Closer to Home services in the community.
“We believe that health services and social care should be provided by a merged National Health and Social Care Service and we are against such services being provided by private organisations whose main aim is to make a profit.
“Service, not profit should be at the heart of all such service provision.
“Many aspects of social care in Kirklees have already been privatised and community health services were taken out of the NHS and are now provided by a private company, Locala.
“If this tender goes ahead then there is a strong possibility that private companies will take over all our health and social care services for profiteering purposes.
“We would prefer that the local NHS hospital trusts, along with Kirklees and Calderdale Councils should jointly organise to provide all health and social care services for the public good, not profit.
“Further we believe that this will also result in the proposed changes to our hospital services happening without proper consultation or scrutiny.
“We call upon the Calderdale and Kirklees Joint Health Scrutiny Committee (JHSC) to use their powers to stop this tendering now.
“They committed to investigate proposed service changes but have only met once, in September, and we ask that they carry out their duties and stop this happening.
“They are our elected representatives and have the responsibility to protect our services. It is their duty to us and we will hold them accountable for this.”
A statement from the two commissioning clinical groups said the ‘Care Closer to Home’ model had been developed following “extensive engagement” with health professionals and the public.
“This process is not about removing services from hospital,” said a spokesperson.
“It is about enhancing, improving, and increasing the integration of a range of services already delivered in community settings.
“The re-commissioning of these services supports the development of better healthcare services within the community, with an emphasis on care being closer to people’s homes or within their homes.
“It also allows the CCGs to focus on services that help patients’ recovery and promote independence.
“Both NHS Greater Huddersfield CCG and NHS North Kirklees CCG will continue to involve local patients, carers and stakeholders during the procurement process.
“We are also discussing our plans on a regular basis with forums such as the council’s Health and Well Being Board and Overview and Scrutiny Committees.”
Dr Steve Ollerton, clinical leader of Greater Huddersfield CCG, said: “Both CCGs are strongly committed to delivering healthcare which is closer to people’s homes and more integrated with social care services. We are, of course, wanting to commission services that will result in fewer people being admitted to hospital, which is what people are telling us they want.”
Carol McKenna, chief officer of Greater Huddersfield CCG, said “Greater Huddersfield CCG Governing Body made the decision, in August 2014, to focus first and hardest upon ensuring that community services are strengthened and working well.
“This is all about doing things in the right order. It is crucial to understand the improvements that can be made in the community and we need to build confidence in this first.
“We are fully committed to a public consultation if at a future date significant service change is required.”
Meanwhile, Greater Huddersfield CCG is also inviting tenders for a six figure contract to support patients being discharged from hospital.
The CCG says it is aiming to launch a service to “provide a clear link” between GPs and hospitals.
The so-called “discharge co-ordinators” will work with admitted patients, initially with a selection of GP practices, with an aim to cover all 39 GP practices within Greater Huddersfield.
The 12-month contract will be worth £247,000 to the successful bidder.
The Examiner asked Clr Liz Smaje (inset), Kirklees’ lead councillor for Calderdale and Kirklees Joint Health Scrutiny Committee (JHSC), what was being done to monitor the tender, why no meetings were scheduled to review it and if she was concerned about the impact on the hospital shake-up plan?
She said: “Kirklees Council is committed to continuing to take an active interest in the development of community health services and the new care closer to home model for Kirklees.
“Clinical commissioning group representatives have attended the council’s Wellbeing and Communities Scrutiny Panel. The panel is chaired by Clr Karen Rowling and I am a member of this group. The proposals for the new contract have been discussed as they have developed.
“The council also works closely with Calderdale Council on the joint scrutiny for future hospital services across Huddersfield and Calderdale. I am the lead Kirklees councillor for the Joint Health Scrutiny Committee for Huddersfield and Calderdale.
“We are aware that the current clinical commissioning contract for community health services ends in 2015 and that they are working towards awarding a new contract, based on the care closer to home model, in spring 2015.
“I am committed to ensuring that we maintain an oversight of the
complex relationship between the community health services and
hospital services and to ensure that we get the best possible community health and hospital
services for local people.”