£800 Million NHS Contract Cancelled Due to Poor Performance

A five-year NHS outsourcing contract worth in excess of £800 million was ended after only eight months owing to problems with the company involved.

UnitingCare won a competitive tender to run the contract to supply older people and adult community healthcare in Cambridgeshire.

The contract began on first April, but has been terminated in the last few days owing to the poor financial performance of the company.

Jo Rust from the union Unison commented that “it’s evident that they can’t make financial cost savings” that were promised when the contract began.

Patients in Cambridgeshire have already been informed that promised services will be disrupted.

The institution is part of Cambridge University Hospitals, which runs Addenbrooke’s and Rosie hospitals.

With the Cambridge University Hospitals Experiencing problems as a result of the termination of the contract, alternative arrangements have been made.

Older people’s services have been transferred back to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group.

Commenting on the problems, Dr Neil Modha, the chief clinical officer of Cambridge University Hospital stated that “both parties” had decided to end the contract because “the current arrangement is no longer financially sustainable”.

Modha added that “we all wish to keep this model of integrated service delivery” and “services will continue and not be disrupted”.

Considering this potentially embarrassing situation it is perhaps unsurprising that UnitingCare has remained quiet about the issue.

The organisation affected is a consortium of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) with Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

When the contract was signed back in April, it represented the end of a lengthy and stringent procurement process, which involved three organisations being shortlisted.

It was hoped that the new £800 million agreement would lead to an improvement in patient care in Cambridgeshire.

With the contract responsible for urgent care for adults age 65 and over, including inpatients and accident and emergency services, there’s no doubt that this was a significant contract, and its cessation is a blow to the Cambridge region.

Following the decision to end this contract, campaigners have opposed the transfer of NHS services to a private company.

It has been noted that the commissioning of the partnership in the first place cost over £1 million, with the tender process central to this expenditure.

After the cancellation of the contract, it is now hard for even the most adamant defender of the arrangement to deem it anything other than a waste of money.

The long-term plans for the Cambridgeshire region with regard to replacing these services has yet to be announced.

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Monitor Places Cambridge NHS Trust into Special Measures

The health sector regulator, Monitor, has taken action against at NHS trust in Cambridge.

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been placed into special measures, as the regulatory body continues to assess its ability to deliver services to patients.

Monitor is also looking for improvements to be made by the trust with regard to financial organisation.

The regulator was forced to act following an investigation into the fiscal performance of the Cambridge trust.

Governance arrangements within the trust were also investigated diligently.

The latest reports indicate that the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust expects to run up a deficit of £64 million during the financial year; effectively an overspend of around £1.2 million per week.

An investigation carried out by Monitor concluded that the Cambridge trust overall lacks adequate financial control and sufficient fiscal direction.

Monitor had already warned the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to implement financial control methods, but these have evidently not been put in place adequately.

At the time of writing, Monitor is of the opinion that there is no credible plan in place to address the rapidly expanding deficit at the organisation.

In addition to these problems, the Cambridge trust also failed to properly estimate the expense and challenges related to implementing its new ‘e-Hospitals’ electronic patient records system.

e-Hospitals had a significant impact on the provision of healthcare for patients in the Cambridge region, and the trust made insufficient preparation for the increased requirements.

The failure to address these issues led to significant cost increases within the Cambridge trust, and ultimately diminished the positive impacts of the new system.

Having investigated the trust in some depth, the Chief Inspector of Hospitals deemed the Cambridge trust to be ‘inadequate’ when it proffered its overall rating.

Concerns about staffing levels, delays in outpatients treatment, and governance failings where central to the verdict.

With monitor having taken action against the body, the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust will now implement a series of steps with the aim of becoming financially sustainable.

In particular, the trust has agreed to:

– develop and implement a recovery plan to address its deficit

– finalise and deliver a plan to improve the quality of care for its patients

– undertake a thorough review of how the trust is managed

– strengthen its executive leadership

Stephen Hay, Managing Director of Provider Regulation, had the following to say about the verdict.

“Patients treated at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust deserve to receive the highest possible care, and so the failings that we and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have identified in the trust’s services are disappointing.

It’s reassuring that the trust has already started to address some of the issues raised by the CQC and our investigation. But much more needs to be done and the trust’s leadership needs to act quickly to resolve these issues.

Putting the trust into special measures will ensure it gets the extra help and support it needs and we will closely monitor the trust’s progress in making the improvements that its patients expect to see.”

More information on special measures can be found on the NHS Choices website.

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NHS Chief Executive Resigns Amid Financial Problems

The chief executive of a major NHS hospital has resigned, with observers generally believing that the decision was particularly motivated by a forthcoming report.

Dr Keith McNeil resigned his position at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge just one week before a care watchdog report is due to be published.

McNeil had taken up the position in November 2012, but it has become evident that the hospital in Cambridgeshire faces serious challenges.

In addition to the resignation of McNeil, chief finance officer Paul James has also voluntarily stood down from his position at the hospital.

Although the full extent of financial difficulties at Addenbrooke’s is not yet known, reports have indicated that the hospital is currently running a deficit of £1.2 million a week.

With these prominent individuals probably somewhat privy to the likely content of the report, it seems that both have considered their positions to be untenable.

And with the Care Quality Commission report due to be published within days, the organisation of the hospital has now been thrown into something of a crisis.

Speaking about his decision to resign, Dr. McNeil stated that the hospital face a number of very serious challenges. He also indicated that it had been a difficult decision to step down.

“It is a matter of public record that we face a number of very serious challenges, including a growing financial deficit, and I feel the time is right to have new leadership in place. I am pleased our hospitals continue to provide our patients with outcomes that are not only some of the best in the UK, but in Europe,” McNeil commented.

Despite making an official statement, McNeil gave no official reason for his resignation, and the situation has not been expanded upon by the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust.

The hospital recently introduced a £200 million patient records system based on new IT technology, and it is thought that this has been central to its financial travails.

Monitor is currently investigating the finances of the trust.

Daniel Zeichner, Labour MP for Cambridge, acknowledged the problems caused by the new computer system, but suggested that there was a more fundamental underlying reason for the problems and resignations.

“The introduction of the new computer system was troubled and difficult and I suspect that’s contributed to their problems, but I think the basic responsibility for this is the [financial] pressure that’s been put on the National Health Service by the government. The Conservatives promised extra for the health service – we haven’t seen it,” Zeichner commented.

Zeichner also predicted that McNeil would not be the only chief executive in the NHS that would take such drastic action.

Of course, his comments must be seen in the context of his political allegiance.

Jane Ramsey, chairwoman of the trust, commented that McNeil had “shown great leadership qualities and has helped the trust to maintain its reputation for high quality care and excellent outcomes for our patients.”

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Prof Stephen Hawking to Open Cambridge Rare Disease Summit

It has been announced that Professor Stephen Hawking will open a Cambridge summit on rare diseases.

The inaugural Cambridge Rare Disease Summit, at the Cambridge Judge Business School, will take place on Monday 14th September.

Hawking will be in attendance to speak to attendees, as the lead-up to ‘Jeans for Genes Day’, annual fundraising event, continues.

The infamous professor will be just one of the keynote speakers appearing on the day.

As well as Professor Hawking, keynote speakers will include:

– Dr Matt Might, parent advocate, founder of NGLY1.org

– Dr Hermann Hauser CBE, Amadeus Capital Partners

– Alistair Kent OBE, Director of Genetic Alliance UK and founder of Rare Disease UK

Professor Hawking was, of course, diagnosed with the rare motor neuron disease at the age of 21, and told that the problem was incurable.

However, this has not diminished his interest in scientific pursuits, and Hawking has gone to live an extremely productive life, publishing some of the most significant scientific research in quantum physics in particular.

The Cambridge Rare Disease Summit will discuss how the 3.5 million other Britons who live with a rare disease can experience the same quality of life that Professor Hawking has evidently enjoyed.

Although the situation that Hawking finds himself in may seem to be extremely rare, in fact the whole concept of rare diseases are in fact far more common than one might imagine.

6,000 rare diseases have already been identified in laboratories, and this means that every British resident has a one-in-17 chance of developing a rare disease at some point during their lifetimes.

However, despite this sobering figure, advances in genetics and genomic medicine ensure that researchers and medics are now extremely well placed to diagnose, treat and even cure rare genetic disorders.

The Cambridge Summit will be a particularly prestigious and valuable event, enabling 150 key stakeholders involved in rare diseases to collaborate.

There is also a huge diversity of attendees, with delegates ranging from those working on drug development, data sharing and parent support, to biotech entrepreneurs, pharmaceutical companies and start-ups.

It is hoped that the summit will both create awareness of rare diseases, and also play a part in forming and bonding a community of active and interested stakeholders in rare disease research and development.

The network is also seeking alternative ways to fund drug discovery programs for rare diseases, often overlooked by more traditional financing due to the lack of significant financial reward in particular.

Kay Parkinson, CEO of the newly-formed Cambridge Rare Disease Network (CRDN) commented on the forthcoming event favourably.

“As parent to two children who were given a late diagnosis of the ultra rare Alström Syndrome, I think it’s crucial to foster dialogue, find solutions and increase awareness of the huge social and therapeutic unmet needs around rare diseases,” Kay stated.

Cambridge was considered a natural location for this event, owing to its existing knowledge and expertise in research and industry related to biotechnology.

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