Nurses working for a community healthcare provider in Cornwall continue to face an uncertain future as Monitor steps in to investigate why the organisation has decided not to extend its contract.
Peninsula Community Health, which has provided community services across Cornwall and the Scilly Isles since 2011, announced last month it would not seek to extend its contract beyond March 2016.
Managers cited the “challenging financial climate” and said they would work with commissioners to ensure a smooth transition to other providers.
“Once we know anything then our staff will be the first to be informed”
Peninsula Community Health
Regulator Monitor has since announced it is to investigate the reasons behind the social enterprise’s decision at the same time as trying to help sort out alternative arrangements.
The hope is staff from Peninsula Community Health, which oversees 14 community hospitals as part of its current contract, will be able to transfer to the new provider or providers.
But so far none of the organisations involved in those negotiations have been able to offer firm reassurance to nurses and others.
Peninsula Community Health, a social enterprise set up by NHS staff in 2011, said it was striving to keep employees informed every step of the way.
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“We are an organisation that prides itself on staff communication,” a spokeswoman told Nursing Times.
“From the moment this decision was on the cards we have told them as much as we possibly can,” she said. “They know everything as it happens.”
She added that senior managers had staged regular bi-monthly meetings with team managers and line managers to keep them informed of developments and this information was then shared directly with frontline staff. Managers were also meeting regularly with local unions representatives.
She told Nursing Times that it was up for commissioners to decide the shape of services going forward, but said nurses would have a key role.
“Nurses are very much in demand, so it is not likely they would be at risk,” she said. “Once we know anything then our staff will be the first to be informed.”
“We want to understand the financial challenges facing the organisations”
Last week Monitor announced that it would be looking in detail at what had happened.
“We want to understand the financial challenges facing the organisations and, crucially, how we can support a smooth transition of services to a new community care provider,” said Richard Peden, Monitor’s director of independent providers.
The regulator hopes to complete its investigation within the next three to four months, said a spokeswoman. However, she said the probe would not hold up plans to get an alternative service provider in place.
Peninsula Community Health stressed the investigation was not about the quality of care it provided.
“We have been rated as a ‘good’ provider of NHS services by the Care Quality Commission, following our recent inspection,” said chief executive Steve Jenkin.
“But being a social enterprise, we were unable to operate a deficit and have no assets to borrow against,” he said.
“We have been involved in three separate independent reports which have looked at the level of funding required and it would be irresponsible of us to enter into a contract where the funding does not meet the required activity.”
“We are looking at how to integrate health and social care services as well, but at the moment can’t say anymore”
Local clinical commissioning group NHS Kernow said it could not yet provide details of any future arrangements.
“NHS Kernow, like Monitor and Peninsula Community Health, will seek to achieve a smooth transition of services to another provider from April 2016,” said a brief statement from the CCG.
“We will work with Monitor to provide any information required for them to satisfactorily perform their investigation,” it said.
A spokeswoman for the CCG told Nursing Times the body had not yet made a decision about procurement arrangements.
“We are looking at how to integrate health and social care services as well, but at the moment can’t say anymore,” she said.