Bristol South MP Karin Smyth raises concerns in Parliament that vital NHS services could be lost due to secretive tendering process

Bristol South MP Karin Smyth took the campaign for more transparency in the NHS to parliament when she led a Westminster Hall debate on the future of local community health services.

She was joined in Parliament on Wednesday 26 Jun by Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage and other MPs to discuss Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (BNSSG CCG) procurement and what it will mean for community health services in Bristol South.

“As it stands, we do not know who is bidding and what they are offering,” said Karin, “And crucially, because there was no baseline or business case for change presented, we cannot be sure that service provision will remain in place, let alone improve. That is what I’m really concerned about and it’s why I’ll continue pushing for more transparency during this ill-advised process.”

She added: “People across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire simply want to know what is happening to their local health services. This competitive and secretive process goes against the NHS plan and experts’ desire for more collaborative ways of working.”

Karin, who worked as an NHS manager for many years before she was elected to parliament, first raised concerns late last year (2018) when BNSSG CCG put a £1 billion, 10-year contract for adult community health out to tender. She has spoken with the Chief Executive of the CCG, NHS England and NHS Improvement seeking assurances that vital NHS services in Bristol South – including those at South Bristol Community Hospital – won’t be lost.

She said: “This debate is the latest important step in ensuring that my constituents aren’t left worse off in terms of the community health services they rely on. I’ve spoken with NHS staff – managers, consultants and nurses – as well as other service providers and residents; like me, they are worried that this change could lead to poorer provision.

“Our health services are public services. They are paid for by the taxpayer – our constituents. If we keep asking people to pay more for our health services, people need to have a much greater say in how those services are run; particularly when they are being changed.

“With the CCG seemingly intent on carrying out this process behind closed doors, we cannot know whether we’re getting value for money when we don’t even know what we’ve got at the moment and what is being proposed. How much is this process costing us? People in Bristol South deserve to know that what they’re getting is as good as, if not better than, what they have now.”

Following the parliamentary debate, Karin has written to the minister asking for her support in getting sight of the proposals before any contracts are signed. Ms Dinenage thanked Karin for raising the important issue and said the government would continue to monitor this process closely.

Karin added: “I’m pleased that the minister has recognised my concerns as valid but there’s still some work to do to ensure my constituents can access the healthcare they need.”