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County to pay trusts £200k after losing public health contract case

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Lancashire CC has agreed to pay £200,000 to two health trusts after losing a court case in relation to a public health services contract.

The county council will now re-run and complete its tendering process for public health services for 0- to 19-year-olds by re-evaluating the two existing bids from Virgin Care and a joint bid between Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust (LCFT) and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust (BTHT).

LGC previously reported how the trusts took Lancashire CC to court after the council awarded a five-year £104m contract for school nursing and health visiting services to Virgin Care. The trusts, which were the incumbent providers of the services, successfully overturned Lancashire’s decision to award the contract to Virgin Care.

Mr Justice Stuart-Smith found the county council’s records of its moderation process fell short of the standards required to evidence the reasons for the scores awarded to bidders. In their arguments the trusts said they would lose up to £2m of transformation funding and 160 staff as a result of missing out on the contract. 

The county council has agreed to pay the health trusts’ most of their legal costs for bringing the case. Although a final figure has not yet been produced, the council has anticipated it will be in the region of £200,000 which would be around 75% of the total costs.

Certain aspects of the procurement process are to now be re-run with a new independent panel, which will make the decision over who will be awarded the contract. 

Shaun Turner (Con), cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “We will now be able to move forward to finalise this procurement process and we have also agreed to pay 75% of the trusts’ legal costs for this case, which will mean we do not have to go back to court. 

“Where services such as the 0-19 public health services are not being delivered in house, we are under a legal duty to open them up to competition and the decision to do so in this case was in no way political. 

“The existing contract with LCFT and BTHT does not expire until March 2019 so the public can be reassured that there will be no disruption to these important services. 

“Health visitors and school nurses all do a fantastic job and we will continue to support them in any way we can to ensure children and families continue to receive a good service.”

Lancashire’s children’s services show signs of improvement

Lancashire CC’s children’s services are no longer in special measures after being rated as ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted.

The council’s services had previously been deemed inadequate.

The latest inspection noted improvements in engaging with children, better support of care leavers, and an effective workforce strategy which was addressing retention rates and reducing reliance on agency staff. 

John Readman, interim executive director of education and children’s services, said: “Whilst there is still work to be done this report shows that children’s services in Lancashire have started to improve and good progress is being made.”

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