Solent NHS Trust is set to sue Hampshire County Council after the local authority awarded a £41.3m contract for adult substance misuse services to another provider.
LGC’s sister title Health Service Journal has learned that the community and mental health provider, which currently runs the service, claims that there were “serious errors” in the way in which its bid for the contract was assessed.
The three year contract, which contains an option to extend for a further two years, was awarded earlier this year to Inclusion Drug Services, a provider which is part of South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare Foundation Trust.
A Solent spokeswoman said its claim would likely focus on future financial losses, which it is in the process of quantifying.
Each provider’s contract bid was assessed by the council using a process that included a points system rating the strength of bids’ different elements, including value for money.
Sarah Austin, Solent director of strategy, said the trust believed its score was too low and it was trying to find out why this was.
“We believe there has been a serious error in the scoring of our bid. We have entered into a procurement dispute and that will enable us to see information about the scoring to understand why our scoring appears so wrong,” she said.
“Given the fact that we have provided a very good service for the last four years, we could not understand why the scoring was as it was.”
“If we are correct then the only remedy for the trust is damages, now that the contract has been awarded.”
In December the trust successfully applied to the courts to halt the procurement process through a suspension order.
The council then petitioned the court to lift the order, allowing it to award the contract to Inclusion. The suspension order was lifted last month.
The lifting of the order means the procurement process cannot be re-run, which Solent says means suing for damages is its only option.
Ms Austin said: “This is a very important service to us. We’re used to winning bids but sometimes we lose them, and we accept that it’s part of the normal life of organisations.
“On this occasion, exceptionally, we felt very strongly that something was not right.”
She added that the trust would “do our proper job” to ensure a straightforward handover of services to the new provider.
A council spokeswoman said: “Reducing the harm caused by substance misuse to individuals, their families and communities is very important to the county council, and as such we have recently completed the due process of tendering to provide a substance misuse service for adults in Hampshire for the next three years.
“Our priority now is to work with the existing provider, Solent Trust, to ensure continuity of service for those currently accessing treatment and support services and together ensure we keep service users fully informed whilst we transfer to the new provider”.
A court date is set for 12 October.
Information provided to HSJ
27 February 2015