Virgin Care Services is in the running to be the interim provider of children’s community services in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, after the incumbent NHS provider announced it would end its contract in March.
North Bristol NHS Trust has provided the contract, which includes all community child health and child and adolescent mental health services, in partnership with the Barnado’s charity since March 2009.
The five joint commissioners – Bristol and South Gloucestershire clinical commissioning groups, Bristol and South Gloucestershire Councils and NHS England – had planned to extend the contract to March 2017 to give them time to re-commission the service.
“There are no plans to change the care and support provided during the period of the interim contract”
However, in May North Bristol announced that it would not be extending the contract beyond March 2016 because it wanted to focus its “energies and resources” on “acute and hospital based care”.
The decision has meant the commissioners have had to scramble to line up an interim provider to operate the service for one year, before the re-commissioned service begins under a permanent provider in March 2017.
This could result in the 700 staff on the contract being moved twice in the space of a year under the transfer of undertakings, protection of employment (TUPE) regulations.
In June, the CCGs also wrote to North Bristol expressing “concerns over the safety of the service and handover of the service” because of the trust’s decision.
Last week, the commissioners revealed the identity of the two shortlisted bidders in the running to be interim provider – Virgin Care Services and a partnership involving Sirona Care and Health Community Interest Company, Bristol Community Health Community Interest Company and Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust.
Sirona provide adult and children’s community services in Bath and North East Somerset, and Bristol Community Health runs adult community services in Bristol. Both social enterprises were “spun out” from primary care trusts under the Transforming Community Services programme.
Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership currently provide mental health services in Bristol together with a number of voluntary sector providers
The bidders will be required to submit further information to the commissioners before the interim contract is awarded this autumn.
In a statement, the commissioners said safety was “of paramount importance” and the service would be delivered “to the highest possible standard”.
“We would like to reassure children, young people, their families and carers that there are no plans to change the care and support provided during the period of the interim contract,” they added.