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01.08.16

NHS incorporating UnitingCare lessons into new contracting framework

The NHS is developing a framework to avoid future contracting failures such as the collapse of the £800m UnitingCare deal, Lord Prior has said.

The UnitingCare partnership, an NHS consortium, signed a five-year contract with Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG to provide old people’s services, but it collapsed after just eight months after it was found to be financially unsustainable.

The final report into the deal by the National Audit Office warned that NHS England is likely to sign more large contracts for delivering integrated care in the future as it implements the Five Year Forward View, which could be vulnerable to the same financial blindspots.

In response to a written question from Labour peer Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Lord Prior, the minister for NHS productivity, said the health service is developing an assurance framework for contracts, informed by the findings of the NAO report.

It is also carrying out an assessment of current and planned novel contracts.

Lord Prior said that NHS Improvement is also working with NHS England and the Department of Health to consider assurance processes for complex transactions.

Key flaws in the UnitingCare contract included a lack of understanding of how far UnitingCare was allowed to negotiate increased funding and a lack of a patent guarantee.

NHS England is due to publish another review of the UnitingCare contract, focusing on the role of external advisors, the effectiveness of the Gateway review process, and the role of the clinical commissioning group leadership and governing body, by the end of the summer.

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG strategic projects team, which acted as a procurement advisor for the contracting process, was closed down following the publication of an internal report in March.

(Image c. Chris Radburn from PA Images)

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