Response to home care procurement

Dear Suffolk County Councillors,

With regard to commissioning for Home Care Services in Suffolk it is vital that specialist services currently providing care are able to continue to bid to do so. If the tendering process is done geographically as currently proposed, rather than by provider specialisation, then most of the charities currently providing the services will not be able to compete as it will be against their charitable purposes. We believe that yet again some of the huge multinationals (generics) will bid to run all of the proposed 33 geographic areas for profit. Experience tells us the wages needed to provide good care will be undercut yet again and experienced and qualified staff will leave the sector – see SERCO handling of Suffolk Community Health Care. If lower wages are paid the quality of care declines, if the best staff leave the quality of care will decline and as we all know continuity of care is hugely important.

Whilst we would prefer that all social care be provided by SCC we acknowledge that this is not feasible in the current economic climate, however we remain committed to fight for the best possible care for those in need. Whichever organisation or organisations win the tenders (or potentially one organisation for all 33 areas) they will have to provide all services including specialist ones. At the moment there is no single provider in existence which is able to do this. Presumably the intention is that organisations form alliances and bid together for one or more areas. This will put the onus on them for due diligence and will incur high administrative costs which they may not be able to meet. This works against the involvement of the smaller charities/organisations who do not have the capacity to contract (make alliances) with 33 or more bidders.

Specialist providers should be given a level playing field and allowed to bid at sub OJEU threshold levels in order to provide the services that multinational companies will not want to or do not have the required expertise to deliver. The proposal to tender by geographical area is fundamentally flawed and flies in the face of the discussions held at the Health Policy Development Panel. The Labour Group will be opposing this method of procurement.

We need to be sure that any provider who wins the services has the capacity and ability to deliver specialist services and we need to be doubly sure that any large organisation will provide any care at the same level as our current local providers – it needs the ‘good enough for your own mum’ test.

There have been enough warnings from us and others about the declining standards of service in the home care and care home provision in Suffolk and we do not want it to get worse. It gives me no pleasure to have to say “I told you so” but we will continue to point out the failings and the causes of the failings until they have been put right.

We in the Labour Group remain committed to quality care for the residents of Suffolk. Care staff need to be paid a proper wage to deliver a quality service, anything else is wholly unacceptable to our residents in greatest need. Devising procurement frameworks which preclude highly qualified providers from delivering quality specialist care goes against the principles of Adult and Community Services.

If ACS want to commission the very best services for our customers and carers – they would not be procuring services by geographical area
If ACS want to ensure services represent best value for money – they would not be procuring services by geographic area.
If ACS want to maintain a sustainable market for care in Suffolk – they would not be procuring services by geographic are.

We urge Cllr Murray to work with the Director of ACS and other officers to design a procurement process which gives existing charitable providers of specialist services a realistic opportunity to continue to provide these services.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Sarah Adams
Shadow Health and Adult Care Spokesperson
St Margaret’s and Westgate

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