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Judge gives clinical commissioning group go-ahead to award elective surgery contract

A judge has this week allowed Rushcliffe Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to award an elective surgery contract to Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust, following a legal challenge by Circle Health.

Circle, which had previously held the contract for 11 years, argued that the contract was unfairly awarded to NUH.

It sought an order to set the contract award aside and award the work to Circle, which came second, instead. It also wants unspecified financial compensation.

Circle had said the trust’s financial position was so poor that it was “neither credible nor sustainable” of it to claim that it could deliver the 18% saving on the £64m a year contract.

The claimant’s objections include tender scoring, the trust’s financial standing and state aid.

A judge, understood to be Deputy High Court judge Sir Antony Edwards-Stuart, has now lifted the automatic suspension of the award. A hearing of Circle’s procurement challenge will be heard later this year.

In a statement following the court ruling, NUH said the judgment would enable it to complete its work with the CCG so that it can commence the new five-year contract.

Tracy Taylor, NUH Chief Executive, said: “We have always seen the Treatment Centre tender as an exciting opportunity to develop innovative services for the benefit of our patients and the wider health and social care community through more integrated care.

“We are disappointed that there have been so many delays to the award of this contract and completion of the procurement process as a result of legal challenges. However, this legal ruling means we can now work proactively with our partners, including Circle, to ensure a smooth transition. We also look forward to welcoming new members of staff to NUH.    

“We are committed to continuously improving the safety, quality and efficiency of our services. The Nottingham Treatment Centre is a fantastic healthcare facility and we will maximise its use to bring the best patient experience for Nottinghamshire patients.”

A spokesman for Circle Health said: “We are obviously disappointed that the CCG has decided to push ahead with a rushed handover which is not in the interests of patients. This does not affect our challenge to the CCG’s procurement process, which will be heard later this year.

“We are confident that the Court will find that the Commissioners have run a flawed and unfair procurement.”

He added: “Circle has provided services at the Treatment Centre for the past 11 years and we believe that we have presented the most credible, deliverable bid and that it is irrational for the Commissioners to award a contract of this size and importance to a Trust that is unable to meet current financial and operational demands.

“We remain highly concerned that the Commissioners are seeking to push through a rushed handover of services. They have previously recognised that any orderly transfer to another operator would require a minimum of seven months, yet they are determined to push through a transition in July, just two months from now.”