Virgin Care Services is in the running to be the interim provider of children’s community services in Bristol and south Gloucestershire, after the incumbent NHS provider announced it would end its contract in March.
- Virgin in running for contract against partnership involving social enterprises and Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust
- Interim provider needed to bridge one year gap before recommissioning, after North Bristol Trust announced it would end its contract in March 2016
- Staff could be transferred twice in a year, and commissioners have raised concerns about safety of handover
North Bristol Trust has provided the contract, which includes all community child health and child and adolescent mental health services, in partnership with the charity Barnardo’s since March 2009, LGC’s sister title Health Service Journal reports.
The five joint commissioners, Bristol and South Gloucestershire CCGs, Bristol and South Gloucestershire Councils and NHS England, had planned to extend the contract to March 2017 to give them time to recommission the service.
However, in May North Bristol announced it would not be extending the contract beyond March 2016 because it wanted to focus its “energies and resources” on “acute and hospital based care”.
The decision has meant the commissioners had to scramble to line up an interim provider to operate the service for a year, before the recommissioned service begins under a permanent provider in March 2017.
This could result in the 700 staff on the contract being moved twice in the space of a year under the transfer of undertakings, protection of employment regulations.
In June the CCGs also wrote to North Bristol expressing “concerns over the safety of the service and handover of the service” because of the trust’s decision.
The commissioners last week revealed the two shortlisted bidders in the running to be interim provider: Virgin Care Services; and a partnership involving Sirona Care and Health CIC, Bristol Community Health CIC, and Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust.
Sirona provide adult and children’s community services in Bath and north east Somerset, and Bristol Community Health runs adult community services in the city. Both social enterprises were “spun out” from primary care trusts under the Transforming Community Services programme.
Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership currently provides mental health services in Bristol together with a number of voluntary sector providers
The bidders will be required to submit further information to the commissioners before the interim contract is awarded this autumn.
The commissioners said safety was “of paramount importance” and the service would be delivered “to the highest possible standard”.
“We would like to reassure children, young people, their families and carers that there are no plans to change the care and support provided during the period of the interim contract,” they added.