Acevo challenges charities' exclusion from bidding for NHS contracts

Chief executives body intervenes over decision by primary care trust

Acevo has referred a primary care trust to an NHS complaints panel in a bid to challenge health secretary Andy Burnham's pledge that the NHS should be the preferred provider of services.

The chief executives body has applied to the NHS Cooperation and Complaints Panel, whose remit includes investigating procurement disputes, over Great Yarmouth and Waveney Primary Care Trust's decision to prevent non-NHS organisations from bidding to be primary contractors in providing community services.

Non-NHS bodies were initially eligible to bid for contracts and the PCT intended to issue a pre-qualification questionnaire in early October.

But this was delayed after Burnham pledged to make the NHS the provider of choice for NHS services, and at the end of November the PCT wrote to interested bidders saying it was changing its position.

"In the light of guidance provided to the PCT, the PCT plans to proceed with the procurement process as planned, but limiting the pool of potential bidders to NHS organisations," said the letter, from Dr Sushil Jathanna, chief executive of Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT.

Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, last week wrote to the NHS Cooperation and Complaints Panel to ask it to examine the decision.

"I believe the case in question has system-wide implications that could result in Acevo members who are best placed to meet the needs of NHS patients and taxpayers being excluded from providing NHS-funded services," the letter says.

The panel is expected to make a decision on whether there is a case to be heard by early January. It has no powers to direct the PCT to carry out its procurement process differently, but can make recommendations where it feels NHS policy has been breached.

Jathanna said the PCT was disappointed at Acevo's decision. "Our priority has always been to make sure that the services we commission provide the best possible care for our patients, whilst at the same time complying with national policy and guidance," he said.

"We are inviting tenders from fellow NHS organisations, as well as welcoming innovative partnerships with the voluntary and independent sectors. This will encourage competition to help drive up quality and innovation within the NHS and ensure we get value for money."


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