Gateshead Community Based Care had been chosen by CCGs in Newcastle upon Tyne to operate the integrated evening and weekend care across the city, until a last-minute legal challenge put the contract on hold.
Contracts had been drawn up and sent out, and the service, which was to have been jointly provided with Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was due to begin work in April until existing providers, the not-for-profit Northern Doctors Urgent Care, issued a legal challenge.
Now, the tendering process for out-of-hours care in Newcastle, and three surrounding areas, is to be completely re-run, with local CCGs claiming their ability to co-commission primary care with NHS England from next year will allow greater integration.
But former medical director of Gateshead Community Based Care, Dr Ken Megson questioned the CCGs’ decision.
‘The plan was to have GPs working with the local foundation trust at walk-in centres and A&E to create exactly this kind of integrated service that they are talking about,’ he said.
‘The way we were planning to integrate the service is exactly why we won the contract in the first place.’
Details not made public
The details of the legal challenge to the original tendering decision have not been revealed, and a councillor on Newcastle City Council has now written to its health scrutiny committee to demand that documents related to the re-run of the procurement process are made public.
Dr Megson, who is also Gateshead and South Tyneside LMC secretary asked why his former organisation’s contracts were cancelled so late in the day and without a detailed explanation.
‘All we are looking for now is transparency, although I don’t hold out much hope,’ he said.
In a statement, Newcastle Gateshead Alliance, which includes Newcastle’s two CCGs said its decision to run a new tendering process for out-of-hours care was entirely due to its new commissioning abilities from next year.
‘The opportunity to commission seamless in hours and out-of-hours GP services is one that we simply can’t afford to miss,’ it said.
‘It’s for these reasons that we’ve decided to halt the procurement, as we believe it’s in the best interests of the patients of Newcastle.’