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GPs handed control of community services in landmark deal

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A vanguard clinical commissioning group has awarded its main community services contract to a non-profit company owned by local GPs.

Tower Hamlets GP Care Group Community Interest Company, which is owned by 37 practices in the London borough, is to become the prime contractor for community services.

The company will subcontract most community health services to other providers – mainly two local NHS trusts – and hold them to account for improving outcomes.

Collectively the group of providers is called the Tower Hamlets Integrated Provider Partnership.

The current community services provider, Barts Health NHS Trust, will retain 50-60% of the community services portfolio as a subcontractor, leading on paediatrics in particular, for which it is a specialist provider.

The trust took over community services for Tower Hamlets in 2011, under the transforming community services programme.

Meanwhile, adult community services will primarily be subcontracted to East London NHS Foundation Trust.

The GP company will directly provide some services, including a “single point of access” for out of hospital services, out of hours primary care, and advocacy and interpretation services.

The contract award was announced by Tower Hamlets CCG on Tuesday. The full contracts are due to be signed in July, and the new service goes live in October.

The award comes two years after consultation first began and follows a lengthy “competitive dialogue” procurement exercise.

The deal will be worth £33m a year, for five years, with an option to extend the contract for a further two years. There is also a break clause after two years.

Nigel Woodcock, the CCG’s programme director for the procurement, said he believed the new arrangement would be more efficient by reducing duplication between clinical teams, better use of facilities and implementing a single care record covering primary care, acute and community services.

The GP-led single point of access should reduce missed appointments and improve flow around the system, he added.

The unsuccessful bidders for the contract are North East London NHS Foundation Trust, Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust and Aegle Care Limited.

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