When the partners at Ettingshall Medical Practice gave notice that the practice was no longer financially viable, Wolverhampton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) approached NHS Arden & GEM’s procurement team for help.
With just two months before the practice was set to close, Arden & GEM ran a full procurement process in partnership with the CCG. The successful procurement was completed within a very tight timescale. The preferred bidder was appointed in just over two weeks, allowing for a further four weeks of mobilisation before the new contract officially began.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of GP practices closing due to financial pressures. In some cases, this happens with such little warning that there is no time to go through a procurement process to find a new provider. Sometimes, there is only time to set up a very short term, and often more costly caretaker arrangement, while the worst-case scenario is that a patient list has to be split across other local practices.
When the partners at Ettingshall Medical Practice announced their intention to close, Wolverhampton CCG and NHS England were keen to find a solution which would be least disruptive for patients and cost effective for the NHS
Arden & GEM’s primary care procurement specialists assessed the situation and confirmed that a procurement exercise was possible within the timescale, provided processes were streamlined. The procurement would need to allow sufficient time for responses to be evaluated, as well as building in mobilisation to enable a smooth transition to the new provider.
Having been instructed by NHS England on 1 May, Arden & GEM looked at the best solution, what resources would be needed and where the procurement procedures could be streamlined while maintaining a rigorous process.
Our procurement team agreed a tight timetable which would maximise the amount of time bidders had to consider the documentation. The invitation to tender was published on 15 May and was open for 12 days. The procurement was run as one-stage process under the Light Touch Regime to maximise the number of responses, and four good quality bids were received.
Three working days were set aside to evaluate the bids, followed by moderation. The panel was made up of the CCG lead, patient representative, clinical lead and finance lead. We blocked out time in the panel’s diaries as early as possible to ensure evaluation took place on schedule.
A lot of preparation work was done prior to moderation, minimising the amount of time spent typing in basic details on the day. Outcome letters were pre-prepared, ready for the scoring to be added in as soon as moderation finished.
Moderation was completed in the afternoon of 1 June. Final scores were confirmed and the commissioners were informed on the same day, with outcome letters approved. The preferred bidder was announced on 2 June, just 15 working days after the Invitation to Tender was published.
The bid was won by Royal Wolverhampton Hospital, which chose to keep the practice on its existing site. As a result, disruption to patients has been minimal, with a number of staff staying with the practice under its new ownership.
The new caretaker contract is for 21 months, to allow time for a full review, before re-procuring for a longer period. While shorter caretaker contracts are often costly, in this case, a longer term was offered and the provider came in under the anticipated budget.
Practice closures are challenging for all concerned. However, thanks to procurement at lightning speed, Wolverhampton CCG has been able to implement a cost-effective solution which is also in line with the Five Year Forward View’s ambitions to improve integration between primary and secondary care.
We had just two months to find an alternative provider for the Ettingshall Medical Practice and we were determined to find a positive solution for patients. Thanks to Arden & GEM’s considerable procurement expertise, they were able to respond immediately and effectively, resulting in the quickest procurement turnaround I have ever been involved in.
Head of Contracting and Procurement, Wolverhampton Clinical Commissioning Group
The Arden & GEM team recognised the need for excellent communication and remained focussed on solutions and good outcomes, with an end result of all local transformation plans being assured and deadlines being met.