There was a meeting this week between Bristol County Council Director of Commissioning, Netta Meadows and Care & Support West representing aggrieved local domiciliary care providers in relation to the new contract tendering process to date. The meeting may result in the formation of a ‘Co-Production Group’ to explore how the next steps of the domiciliary care tender process need to proceed. Current providers are to be assessed to join a secondary provider “framework” to work alongside the already successful Main Zone Provider organisations. This Co-Production Grp will hopefully be a step towards resolving the some of the negative feeling caused by the recent tendering process for the awarding of new contracts.
The tender process was controversial from the start. The limited price per hour framework stipulated caused a number of home care providers to opt out of even submitting at the PQQ stage. To win a bid providers claimed that the price per hour had to be between £12.40 and £14:60, in stark contrast to the £15.74 cited by UKHCA as the minimum that would enable any provider to manage a viable organisation or indeed pay the national minimum wage.
In addition in the new contract world all new packages of care will be offered to the four 4 chosen Zone lead organisations and only passed to providers in the secondary framework if the main provider is unable to take the work on. This represents a serious risk to the viability of many provider businesses and real risk to the continuity of care for hundreds of clients.
The controversy grew when out of the 4 providers who won the main zones bid, only one had delivered care in Bristol before and things came to a head when a “whistler blowing” e-mail suggested that there had been process anomalies because one of the successful bidders had allegedly been given prior knowledge. Although the subsequent process audit and allegation investigation found there was no case to answer, local Domiciliary Care providers, feeling vulnerable and aggrieved turned to Care & Support West for support.
At an initial meeting, a report was commissioned from C&SW. (You can download the report here: BCC notes re Dom Care tender process – 19 06 15 This lists numerous serious concerns and risks as a result of the recent decisions and these were addressed at the meeting on 6th July. The outcome, where the majority of providers have joined C&SW, gives the providers a stronger voice, and the potential agreement to create a Co-Production Group, may help to ensure that relations with BCC do not deteriorate further and that progress can be made in a positive and consultative rather than a combative framework.