Herewith NHS Suffolk response to our concerns. You may want to read the previous post outlining our concerns first.
Thank you for your letter of 21 November 2012 setting out the concerns of Sudbury WATCH about the Serco Suffolk Community Healthcare staff consultation.
Through the formal procurement process Serco is required to continue to deliver current services to, at least, the level of care and performance as now. They are also required to deliver these services through an integrated model of care as defined in the additional service specifications developed with GPs in Suffolk. The changes Serco is making relate to the reorganisation of service delivery and will not see major changes to the services received by patients.
I can reassure you that there are no proposals to reduce community beds or change their locations. There will always be times when more beds will need to be opened to support patient care, such as when the healthcare services are under particular pressure in winter.
Serco is proposing to introduce five day packages of care and rehabilitation with reassessment of each patient’s progress and goal setting after that five day period. If patients require further rehabilitation at that stage a further care package will be developed matching the patient’s current needs.
Serco’s model of care organises staff into locally based teams. The supporting administration would be centralised, releasing clinical staff to provide more face to face care. Serco is also investing in mobile technology which allows staff access to the patients’ electronic records while in the community. This decreases travel time in and out of bases, and also duplication of record keeping. Staff will be given more training to allow them to treat a patient for many aspects of their care rather than just one or two. Every patient will be assigned a case manager to coordinate that patient’s care. This model of care will see the quality of rehabilitation and care services improved in the community.
To develop this model of care and the implications for staff, Serco has started a staff consultation. This genuinely means that staff views and opinions are being listened to and, as a result, changes are being made to develop the final proposals. The final figures of staff reductions are not yet agreed and statistics in the original documents did not correctly define future therapist numbers.
The staff consultation is going through two phases. The first section has been extended to 11 December 2012. Then there will be a period of review when staff views will be incorporated to come up with the final proposal, which will be presented to staff at the beginning of the year for their thoughts. Serco has invited GP commissioners to co-produce this final proposal with them.
It is not the case that people who express an interest in MARs and later withdraw will be “fined £300”. Serco is offering staff who wish to seek legal advice £250 plus VAT. Only if they later withdraw their application, will they need to repay this funding.
This is an NHS contract and therefore is subject to contract monitoring. Serco’s performance in relation to these services will be reported at the NHS Suffolk board meetings in public and, in future, at the two clinical commissioning groups’ governing body meetings, also in public. The CCGs will have the same priority for ensuring good patient care and value for money. Local scrutiny and public input will continue through the usual channels, through the emerging Healthwatch, the Health Scrutiny Committee and the Health and Wellbeing Board. In addition, Serco, like all providers, will be required to carry out regular patient experience surveys to help improve and shape services.
We are pleased with the progress that the health facility in Sudbury has made. This is still going through governance processes and, since you are fully engaged in that project, you will be kept up to date through that route. Serco are already signed up to provide services out of that building once it is complete.
Serco is involved in many areas of healthcare, for example, it is driving initiatives to reduce patient referral times at Braintree Community Hospital. Serco acknowledges that at the time of the CQC visit earlier this year, it did not meet all aspects of four standards against which it was being audited. This has now been addressed. Serco alongside their partners, South Essex Partnership NHS Trust, have worked hard to make sure all the CQC standards were being met in SCH as part of the transfer process.
Finally, patient safety is clearly a priority. Changes will not be made unless Serco – and we as commissioners – are absolutely certain that patient care and patient safety is not at risk.
We would welcome the opportunity of meeting with Sudbury WATCH. We would also invite Serco to present and discuss with you in detail their model for community healthcare.
Deputy Chief Executive