Private firms could run new Brid Hospital unit

Alex Seale, NHS ERY Director of Commissioning
Alex Seale, NHS ERY Director of Commissioning

THE Minor Injuries and GP units at Bridlington Hospital could soon be run by private companies.

Bids to run the two units closed on Friday, and it is understood that some of those in the running are private companies.

Bridlington Hospital Matthew Groom.

Bridlington Hospital Matthew Groom.

The replacement service is now set to open in October – a month behind schedule and with a drastically reduced budget.

Patient’s representatives have raised concerns that, if a private bidder wins the contract, profits will have to be made for shareholders.

Hospital bosses, however, say the service will be an improvement for patients and is not a money-saving exercise.

The new unit, still situated at the hospital, will tend patients needing emergency treatment for either minor injuries (MIU), or illnesses that would normally be dealt with by a GP.

At the moment the former is provided by Scarborough and North East Yorkshire NHS Trust, and the latter by the Wolds View Surgery (WVS).

For the last financial year the combined cost of the services was £1.5 million. However, the work has been advertised to bidders with a five-year value of just £6.5 million.

This is a million pounds less than current costs in total, and represents an average value of £1.3 million per year: £200,000 less than is currently being spent. If inflation is taken into account, the annual reduction could be as much as £300,000, or 20%.

The original proposal for the change of service said that “the service will remain within the current cost of £1.5M for both MIU and WVS and is expected to contribute to identified QIPP (Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention) savings due to efficiency in how the service is provided”.

When asked if the new service was contributing to ‘QIPP’ – which are savings required throughout the NHS – Alex Seale, director of commissioning for NHS East Riding of Yorkshire said: “No money is being taken out of this service. Due to the way that payments are made to GPs, it’s likely that this service may cost less, but there are no QIPP savings.”

She also did not feel that the delay was unusual, saying: “In any procurement process there will be slight changes, and I would regard this as being on time, and well within the planning process.

“I think it’s going to be a really good development. We’ve had very good stakeholder engagement and good clinical involvement. It’s about improving what people experience and providing a single point of access.”

Ms Seale was unable to say who had submitted bids but confirmed that several prospective providers had expressed interest.

She said: “We will now start the assessment process, and expect to be able to confirm who has been awarded the contract at our June meeting.”

Dr Geoffrey Pearson is Chair of ERYLINk, which represents patients’ interests and has been consulted throughout the feasibility study.

He said: “ERYLINk considers that the merger of the MIU and Wold’s View Surgery at Bridlington Hospital is a positive action and that this is an appropriate time to undertake this as the PCT which currently runs the Wold’s View Surgery (NHS ERY) will no longer exist from the end of March 2013.

“We understand that six organisations have submitted tenders and that these represent those best placed to provide excellent services to the residents of Bridlington and district and that some are already offering similar services elsewhere.

“However, we would have concerns that in the case of a private bidder winning the contract, not all of the allocated funds would be used for patient care as profits would need to be made and shareholders’ dividends paid.

“We would be eager to receive assurances from NHS ERY that this was not the case.”

Pensioner’s rights campaigner Jean Wormwell of PAGER shares the concerns about the possible introduction of private care providers.

She said: “Wolds View Surgery has been giving a very good service.

“The people who are registered there, or who have gone when their own GP surgery was closed, have nothing but praise for it.

“But if it has to be run at a profit, and if they’re expecting to spend less next year than they spent last year, then it’s very difficult to see how the service will work. The possibility of private companies working in the NHS makes the situation very complicated, and all the re-organisations that are going on must be costing a fortune.”

The re-organisation takes place at the same time as Bridlington Hospital prepares for its takeover by the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

If the York Trust (or its Scarborough arm) has either not submitted a bid, or has done so but is not awarded the contract, it would be expected to lease the necessary space to the preferred bidder.

Although the service will still be free to patients, this could see private healthcare providers established on NHS premises.