NHS privatisation plans are put on hold amid concerns

Sir Jonathan Michael

Sir Jonathan Michael

First published in News Banbury Cake: Photograph of the Author by , Health reporter, also covering Kidlington. Call me on 01865 425271

PLANS that could see private firms run part of maternity, OAP and mental health services have been scaled down after NHS managers’ concerns.

Managers who control budgets were last year were among the first in England to look at a new way of drawing up NHS contracts.

These would be based on how well patients got as a result of their care rather than just whether they were seen in the first place.

But this would let any type of provider, whether a private firm or charity, compete to run services or part of them.

The move led to concern from NHS hospital and mental health managers over the impact on their organisations.

Now Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG), which controls budgets, has agreed to work with state providers for the next financial year. Yet it warned it could go to the “open market” if this approach is not successful.

Ian Wilson, interim chief executive of OCCG, said it had “listened very carefully” to views on the “outcomes based commissioning” (OBC) programme.

He told councillors at the Oxfordshire joint health overview & scrutiny committee at County Hall on Thursday: “We are taking forward a modified version in our discussions with our providers.”

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It means the OCCG will not “put the whole thing out to tender for a single provider. There is no intention of doing that”.

It last year proposed one organisation to provide maternity care but with “competition for specialist services”.

Now the OCCG said it will “reconsider the advantages and feasibility of OBC in this area”.

The same was proposed for care of the frail elderly but now it has pledged a “collaborative” and risk sharing approach.

This means it will work with social services at Oxfordshire County Council, mental health authority Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust (OHFT) and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.

But it said it would reserve the right to “revert to open-market procurement should this pathway not be successful”.

The same pledges were made for mental health services with the council and OHFT.

Last November hospital trust chief executive Sir Jonathan Michael and OHFT chief executive Stuart Bell wrote to OCCG to express concerns.

The letter said: “We strongly believe that this will only lead to increased fragmentation of the health and social care environment in Oxfordshire at a time when there is urgent need for increased and effective integration.”

The move was welcomed by Oxon Keep Our NHS Public campaign group chairman Ken Williamson.

He said: “Collaboration rather than competition has to be the logical way to go. They would have been making off into the unknown.”

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