GP leaders in Leeds said the existing service run by Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust was a 'national exemplar', and have written to local commissioners demanding answers on why it was put out to tender.
Leeds LMC assistant medical director and GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told GPonline that reduced funding for the service would impact on its ability to serve the city's most vulnerable patients.
The decision to award the contract for the York Street Homeless Service to a new provider comes just two months after CQC chief inspector of general practice Professor Steve Field called it a 'thoroughly outstanding practice', which was 'one of the best the CQC has visited'.
Outstanding GP service
Describing the York Street service in December, Professor Field said: 'The term ground-breaking is often used, in this case it is right and proper. Not only does this practice serve its established patient list, it goes the extra mile. Patient communities that are difficult to reach pose a problem for any health economy. York Street Health practice actively goes out to seek them. I refer, specifically, to the work the practice does with the homeless and misplaced.'
His report pointed out that the practice was the first to win an award recognising 'the important role played by the health services in the lives and well- being of asylum seekers', had run groundbreaking schemes to register homeless patients who came into contact with A&E and had clinicians working 'through the night' twice a week to provide access to healthcare for street sex workers.
Dr Vautrey said: 'It was rated outstanding by the CQC in December and we have just learned that even while that was going on the CCG was retendering the contract. It's a national exemplar and yet the CCG has sought to retender that contract and in that process made a significant cut to their budget, which will impact on their abillity to provide services to the most vulnerable patients in Leeds.'
New provider Bevan Healthcare CIC is an award-winning social enterprise, which also won an outstanding CQC rating across all its services in February 2016. A statement from the organisation said it was 'delighted to have been chosen' to run the York Street service.
Bevan Healthcare acknowledged the 'significant cut to the budget for this service', but managing director Gina Rowlands said: 'We are now working closely with the CCG and the current service provider of the York Street Health Practice to ensure that there is a smooth transfer of the contract so that the high quality of service patients receive at York Street Health Practice is maintained.
'We are wholly committed to building on the excellent work and achievements of the practice and to using our expertise and proven models of excellence to continue to deliver the highest possible quality of service for all patients.'
A Leeds South and East CCG spokeswoman said York Street contract was a time-limited deal due to expire on 31 March, and that Bevan Healthcare CIC had been chosen after a 'robust' tendering process.
‘A new specification for the York Street service was developed with patients and stakeholders and includes several enhancements to the previous service model,' the CCG spokeswoman said. 'The CCG considered many factors in setting the core value of the new contract, including a benchmarking exercise of similar services across the country.
‘The current contract includes several elements, such as prescribing budgets and premises costs, which are more typically funded directly by commissioners. In order to better align the new APMS contract with other local contracts, these elements were not included in the core value of the new contract and instead these costs will be funded by commissioners through separate budgets.’
A spokesman for existing provider Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust said: 'The trust was delighted to receive its recent ‘outstanding’ status from the CQC for the delivery of this service. As a time-limited contract we understood that other options would be explored as part of a tendering process.
'We are proud to have delivered this service to a high standard for over 20 years but accept that, on this occasion, another respected provider has been asked to continue our good work.'