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Merseyside community service transfer may be scrapped

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The regulator NHS Improvement has said it could terminate the planned takeover of Liverpool’s community services by Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, and will consider if “a more beneficial transaction” could happen.

Earlier this month, NHS Improvement said it was “pausing” the takeover of services currently run by Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust, after fellow regulator the Care Quality Commission raised concerns about Bridgewater, which was previously chosen as the preferred provider.

Meanwhile, on 14 February, a group of nurses from Liverpool Community Health staged a demonstration over the tranfer plans in the wake of the CQC’s criticism of the trust in its report published on 6 February. It was rated as “requires improvement” by the regulator.

The small group of staff waved placards in opposition to the proposals, saying they feared budget cuts, job losses and a dip in the quality of care under Bridgewater Community Healthcare, according to local newspaper the Liverpool Echo.

Now it seems the move could potentially be cancelled by NHS Improvement. In a document shared with staff and seen by Health Service Journal, the regulator set out how it intends to review the transaction, and will make one of the following recommendations:

  • continue with the transaction
  • continue to pause the transaction to undertake further work
  • terminate the transaction and consider a plan B

However, Bridgewater chief executive Colin Scales has previously pointed out that the trust’s draft CQC report “was known and shared during the transaction process”. The transfer has been led by NHS Improvement, which has faced repeated calls from West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper to restart the process.

According to the document, Miranda Carter, NHS Improvement’s executive director of provider appraisal, will assess the impact of the CQC’s requires improvement rating for Bridgewater, including the “financial impact, risks and mitigations of the CQC report and subsequent actions taken or to be taken”.

Meanwhile, Andrew Morgan, an NHS Improvement senior delivery and improvement lead for Yorkshire and Humber, will “undertake an options appraisal to establish whether or not a more beneficial transaction or management approach for patients could be realised”.

The review will re-examine options previously assessed as well as “explore new and/or novel ideas and compare them against the Bridgewater proposal as currently understood”, the document said.

Bridgewater was selected as preferred provider of the contract in November, amid concerns over the funding envelope offered by Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group.

The services are currently run by Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust, which is being disbanded after serious care and governance failings were exposed.

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