BPV outrage at Royal Free failure

BPV  expresses its outrage at The Royal Free’s failure to deliver key aspects of the current Community Cardiology contract. In particular RFL has not only proposed ending weekday evening clinics but already ceased to provide Saturday clinics at the Wembley and Willesden centres and has brazenly stated its position on both of these as “non-negotiable.”

We are not aware of any plans on the part of RFL or Brent CCG to restore the full contract specification service which was promised to the public as part of the ‘Shaping a Healthier Future’ project to provide “better care closer to home”. We have written to the CCG saying that unless it can restore the service the CCG should advise Brent GPs, Brent Council and the wider community that it is no longer being provided and where the fault lies.

Our observations and conversations at the two clinics in July 2017 reveal that a number of other aspects of the contracted services are not being delivered. These  include:

  1. not providing stress echo-cardiogram investigations;
  2. not providing Holter ambulatory ECG 24-hour monitoring investigations;
  3. using a specialist registrar at Willesden for clinics where a Consultant Cardiologist required by the contract specification;
  4. not providing a receptionist for clinics at the Willesden and Wembley centres

It must be recalled that this is not a “run of the mill” routine contract but one of two major projects begun by the former PCT and continued by the CCG to take a range of outpatient clinics away from acute hospitals and put them into community settings. The contract was awarded, after a very long and doubtless expensive process, to RFL who were stated to have won it by one point out of 400, following a tie in the first round of scoring. Accordingly RFL were under a moral as well as legal obligation to deliver the supposedly new and better service offered to Brent patients, always allowing for unforeseen exigencies.

The planned start of these 2 Community Clinics was seriously delayed not once but twice. When the service did begin in March 2015 it was discovered (partly through a delayed first appointment on an urgent referral of a BPV member) to be woefully deficient in terms of opening hours, waiting times and record keeping. The CCG invited Peter Latham of BPV to join the contract monitoring group and it was not until a year after the official commencement that RFL appeared to be operating the clinics substantially according to the specification. Now, about a year later we are faced with the defaults set out above. This is completely unacceptable, particularly bearing in mind the promises made to the public and the so far un-quantified effects on the previous providers. RFL is not a small or inexperienced provider of healthcare. They should not have taken on this work unless they were confident that they could deliver it.

BPV are convinced that it is incumbent on the CCG to attempt to get the full contract specification service for patients restored and continued for the remaining just over 6 months of this contract. We believe that holding a contractor for a major service such as this to all the key provisions of the contract is important for patient care and that failing to do so would set a most unfortunate precedent. These are not failures to provide a few sessions here or there but deliberate decisions not to continue with a number of procedures and agreed opening hours. The evidence is of continuing serious breaches of contract by RFL which cannot go unchallenged. The reputation of the CCG with providers is at stake.

Robin Sharp

BPV Chair

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