Health commissioning blog


March 31, 2015 5:16 PM | Posted by Fawlk, Catherine | Permalink

The National Health Service (General Medical Services Contracts and Personal Medical Services Agreements) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (the Regulations) come into force on 1 April 2015. The Regulations introduce new mandatory contractual terms that must be included in general medical service (GMS) contracts and personal medical services (PMS) agreements made between NHS England and GMS or PMS contractors (contractors).

Which terms are being introduced and why?

  • All patients under the age of 75 must be provided with a named, accountable GP. This term requires contractors to assign an accountable GP for every patient under the age of 75, except where the patient does not want one to be assigned to them. The accountable GP will take lead responsibility for coordination of all services provided to the patient at the contractor’s practice. Introduction of this mandatory term follows on from the introduction, in 2014, of a named, accountable GP for those patients aged 75 and over.
  • Provision of NHS Primary Medical Services to certain armed forces personnel. This term enables a contractor to accept a member of HM armed forces as a patient for a maximum of two years, if authorised in writing by the Defence Medical Services and the contractor is satisfied that he/she is living or working within the contractor’s practice area. Currently, patients who join HM armed forces are removed from the list of GPs providing NHS primary medical services.
  • Publication of earnings information. This term requires contractors to publish details of mean net earnings of GPs who are party to a GMS contract or PMS agreement, or who are employed or engaged by the contractor, whether on a full time or part time basis for a specified minimum period, in their practice for the previous financial year. This information must be published annually for the preceding financial year on the practice website (or on the NHS Choices website where the practice does not have a website) and in the practice leaflet. Contractors will also be required to publish the number of full and part time GPs associated with the published figures.
  • Extension of the scope of online access to medical records and improvement in online appointment booking. This term requires a contractor to provide patients with online access to their medical records except in certain limited circumstances. In addition, it also requires the contractor to act to increase the number of appointments available for its registered patients to book online where this is necessary to meet the reasonable needs of those patients.
  • Mandatory contractual terms requiring:
    • Contractors to establish and maintain a Patient Participation Group for the purposes of obtaining, reviewing and acting on feedback from the contractor’s registered patients about the services provided by the contractor.
    • Contractors to offer alcohol screening to newly registered patients over the age of 16 and to offer appropriate interventions to any such patient who is identified as drinking at increasing, higher or dependent levels

      Currently, contractors have the option to establish a Patient Participation Group or offer alcohol screening as both are directed enhanced services.
  • Provision of information on out-of-hours services. This term introduces a requirement on contractors who provide out-of-hours services to their registered patients to comply with any requests for information about the provision of such services which are made by or on behalf of NHS England.
  • NHS contracts and NHS disputes. Currently, contractors can chose whether their GMS contract or PMS agreement is to be either an NHS contract or a non-NHS contract. Disputes arising from an NHS contract are determined by the NHS Litigation Authority. Disputes arising from non-NHS contracts are determined through the courts unless the contractor opts to use the NHS disputes procedure. Contractors may alter the status of their contract if they wish.

    Currently, if the holder of an NHS contract changes the status of the contract to non-NHS contract any disputes relating to the period when the contract was an NHS contract may not be determined by the NHS Litigation Authority. This new term provides in effect, that disputes under a GMS/PMS contract or agreement that is not an NHS contract, but which relate to a time when the contract was an NHS contract, may be referred to the NHS dispute resolution procedure by either the contractor or NHS England.

  • Responsibility for out-of-area patients. Currently, a GMS/PMS contractor is unable to remove a patient from their list of registered patients on the ground of the patient’s medical condition. This new mandatory term allows contractors who have registered patients from outside of their practice area to remove them from their list if there is a change in the patient’s medical condition which means it is, in the opinion of the contractor, no longer clinically appropriate or practical to continue to provide services to them on a basis which does not include home visits.
  • Friends and family test. The requirement that a contractor gives patients the opportunity to provide anonymous feedback about the service received from the practice through the friends and family test was introduced in October 2014. Practices were required to report the results of their friends and family test to NHS England and publish the results of completed tests at a local level,(although NHS England guidance was not specific about the manner of publication). The amended term dealing with the friends and family test effectively removes the requirement for a contractor to publish the results of completed tests at local level.
  • Practice leaflet. Finally, the amended Regulations now require that contractors include in their practice leaflet information on the new mandatory contractual terms namely the Patient Participation Group and the alcohol screening service.
March 18, 2015 2:41 PM | Posted by Richards, Tania | Permalink

The Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (Regulations) were recently published and came into effect on 26 February. The 2015 Regulations are of importance to the all in the NHS (whether buying goods and services or bidding) and the independent and third sector when bidding for NHS work.

From 26 February, the old distinction between “Part A” and “Part B” services disappears and is replaced by the new ‘light touch’ regime. Under the light touch, all health, social and some other services contracts within the Common Procurement Vocabulary codes set out at Schedule 3 of the 2015 Regulations must be advertised in the OJEU in accordance with Regulation 74, if valued at over EUR 750,000 (currently £625,050). Note, however, that this “light touch” regime does not (yet) apply if the contract is for health services within the scope of the NHS Procurement Regulations. While the majority of former “Part B” services fall within “light touch”, don’t assume this as there are some notable exceptions (including no catch all “other services” category). Those services which are not expressly identified in Schedule 3 will now be subject to the full regime.

The introduction of the light touch regime is delayed until April 2016, however, for NHS commissioners (Clinical Commissioning Groups and NHS England) when commissioning NHS health care services (i.e. those covered by the Section 75 of the NHS (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) (No. 2) Regulations 2013). This is in order to provide time to set out how the two regimes might work together. Amongst a number of other tensions between the regimes, how, in particular, will Monitor’s guidance on the Section 75 Regulations (which is very clear that these do not establish competition as the default process), apply once the light touch regime (which requires the contract be advertised in the OJEU if over EUR 750,00) is in place?

It is as yet unclear how the tension between the two regimes can be resolved; Commissioners can only wait - and hope - that by the time April 2016 dawns and with the further bedding down of the Section 75 Regulations, there will be some clear and practical guidance available which will not leave Commissioners facing even more uncertainty and confusion but which helps them to make robust and compliant commissioning decisions. That said, with less than 50 days to go before the general election and Labour’s promise to repeal aspects of the Health and Social Care Act and make the NHS the preferred provider of services with a statutory exemption for the NHS from EU procurement and competition law, the future is far from certain. Although Labour’s plans to exempt the NHS from EU rules is disputed by health think tank, the King’s Fund in a briefing published today.

All procurements commenced (i.e. advertised) on or after 26 February will fall under the new regime. Procurements commenced before that date will continue to be regulated by the Public Contracts Regulations 2006.

We have produced a range of resources including a handy user guide to the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 and a user-friendly 2015 Regulations timescale tracker; to help navigate your way around the new procurement landscape. You can register to receive procurement updates and seminar invitations at www.mills-reeve.com/signup.

March 12, 2015 4:00 PM | Posted by Richards, Tania | Permalink

Since the decision of the Supreme Court in P v Cheshire West and Chester Council (& Ors) and P and Q v Surrey County Council (Cheshire West), there has been a vast increase in the number of people deprived of their liberty by the state.

Many CCGs are reviewing their NHS Continuing Healthcare packages to determine whether the care packages amount to a deprivation of liberty under the new test. Where the patient’s care package is not delivered in a care home or hospital (such as supported living) an application will need to be made to the Court of Protection for an Order approving the care plan.

We have developed some fixed price options for assisting CCGs with applications to the Court of Protection and we can also offer training for staff on identifying care packages which require an application.

For further information on managing applications to the Court of Protection and our fixed price options, please contact on 01223 222448 or on 0207 6489237.

March 5, 2015 10:48 AM | Posted by Richards, Tania | Permalink

After an extensive review of whistleblowing in the NHS, Sir Robert Francis has published his Freedom to Speak Up Review (the Review). Perhaps not unexpectedly he has concluded, after considering information submitted by individuals and organisations in writing and in person, that although many whistleblowing cases are handled well by NHS organisations, too many are not, which he believes has and continues to have a disproportionate impact on individuals who are deterred from speaking up by the fear of adverse consequences or the belief that nothing will be done to address the issues raised. Francis concludes that ultimately this places patients at risk. He recommends that all NHS organisations implement the principles and actions set out in the Review to effect necessary changes to the way in which individuals raise concerns and the way in which these are dealt with.

The Secretary of State for Health has accepted all of the actions highlighted in the Review, and has agreed that further consultation will be undertaken, where appropriate, to work out how these actions can be implemented.

Francis highlights 20 principles, together with a series of related action points, which fall under the following five overarching themes:

  • Culture change
  • Improved handling of cases
  • Measures to support good practice
  • Particular measures for vulnerable groups
  • Extending legal protection

Francis emphasises that boards must lead on effecting a culture change, to move away from a “blame culture” and “foster a culture of safety and learning, in which all staff feel safe to raise concerns”. Noting that whistleblowers do not always know who to turn to, Francis recommends that each organisation establish a full time independent “Freedom to Speak Up Guardian”. The guardian would give independent support and advice to staff who want to raise concerns, raise them at board level and hold the board to account should it fail to focus on a patient safety issue. The Secretary of State for Health has said that each organisation should act now to make this appointment. The Review also recommends that organisations nominate non-executive directors to take specific roles in relation to receiving concerns and that a manager in each department is nominated to receive reports.

Francis envisages that this culture can be achieved through training staff in how to raise and address concerns (such training to be devised by Health Education England and NHS England), as well as taking a proactive stance in addressing bullying and performance issues. Whilst he has rejected calls for the establishment of an external body to investigate complaints, he emphasises that investigations must be prompt, swift, proportionate and blame free. Investigators must have the necessary expertise and, critically, have the time to investigate the matter without having to fit it around their day job. He is critical of lengthy periods of suspension and special leave concluding that these measures leave whistleblowers isolated and susceptible to mental health issues. He recommends that suspension and special leave should only be considered when there is a risk to patient or staff safety, there is concern about criminal wrong doing or tampering with the evidence. Instead he recommends that consideration be given to redeployment to other sites or non-patient facing roles. Further, he cautions against moving whistleblowers who have raised concerns about colleagues from their roles, as this may be seen as a deterrent to raising concerns.

Whilst he notes that he has not reviewed any recent settlement agreements which prevent (or “gag”) individuals from blowing the whistle, he also notes that confidentiality clauses can be worrying for individuals. He recommends that confidentiality clauses should only be included when they are in the public interest (although the meaning of this is not clear) and that the chief executive should review all agreements to satisfy themselves that this has been complied with.

Nationally, Francis recommends that a role of Independent National Officer (INO) be established to provide national oversight and review of the treatment of NHS whistleblowers. They may provide advice to organisations and the Freedom to Speak Up guardians. The INO is not intended to have binding powers, although Francis envisages that they will work with regulators and recommendations may become binding via regulatory mechanisms. Recommendations are also made to strengthen legal protections for whistleblowers so as to protect them from victimisation when applying for new employment, expand the list of prescribed bodies/persons with whom disclosures can be raised and for the establishment of a scheme to enable whistleblowers to find new employment in the NHS.

Francis has recommended that regulators should regard departure from good practice, as set out in the Review, as relevant to whether an organisation is safe and well-led. Organisations will need to update policies and procedures as a result of the Review. If we can assist with this, please let us know.

For further information or advice please contact on 0121 456 8206 or on 01223 222280.

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