The National Audit Office has concluded that there was “an astonishing array of errors” behind the collapse of an £800 million health contract in Cambridgeshire just months after it launched.
An investigation was conducted by the office into the collapse of the Uniting Care partnership.
The audit office discovered that nearly £9 million of NHS funding was ultimately lost on the procurement, amid a raft of other errors by the Cambridgeshire health authorities
The termination led to further unfunded costs totalling at least £16 million, shared between Uniting Care and Cambridgeshire’s clinical commissioning group.
Uniting Care was a partnership between Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH), which runs Addenbrooke’s, and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust.
Meg Hillier, who chairs the Committee of Public Accounts, commented that there had been “an astonishing array of errors” in the process of awarding the contract, which “was not remotely ready” by the time that it was made live.
Elliott was also critical of the overall NHS culture, suggesting that the incident had posed massive question marks over the legitimacy of this process.
Additionally, the hostel or the office asserted that the local health sector failed to learn from previous experiences with private providers, particularly noting the contract that collapsed at Hinchingbrooke Hospital.
The contract that had been initially commissioned by the clinical commissioning group was intended to provide adults and the elderly with community services across Cambridgeshire.
But the project collapsed after just eight months owing to serious financial difficulties.
Both the clinical commissioning group and the partners involved in uniting care have conceded that the report’s findings are indeed accurate.
With the organisation now facing serious structural difficulties, the pair added that they have indeed adopted measures and recommendations outlined by the National Audit Office.
The aforementioned MP Hillier was extremely scathing in her criticism of the organisations involved, and was almost apoplectic regarding the information included in the National Audit Office report.
Hillier commented that the report “details an astonishing array of errors in implementing older people’s and adult community services in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Significant weaknesses were obvious from the start and yet the Uniting Care Partnership, clinical commissioning group, foundation trusts and other bodies were content to continue. Despite drafting in specialist expertise from the private sector and the NHS, the assumptions underlying the contract’s cost structure were not tested.”
In a statement, the committee accepted responsibility for the problems with the clinical commissioning group and contract, and resolved to address the situation in the foreseeable future.
“The committee recognises that innovation and integration must become commonplace in the health service if the NHS is going to survive its funding pressures. However, this unsuccessful experiment sadly counts against those making this strong case for change. As a committee, we want to know who is accountable for this outcome. It is clear that there was insufficient overlap between the various parties tasked with overseeing the contract, and it is patients’ welfare that falls through the cracks when things go wrong.”