Update on Withnell Health Centre – 7 March 2024

Date posted: 7th March 2024

The following statement provides an update on Withnell Health Centre:

Professor Craig Harris, chief operating officer for NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board, said: “I want to provide an update ahead of papers being published today for our primary care commissioning committee meeting next week and further reassure the local population who access services at Withnell Health Centre that we are doing everything we can to get the best and quickest outcome for the practice’s patients and staff.

“Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB has explored in detail all guidance on the new Provider Selection Regime and how this can and must be applied. This is new guidance, which only came into effect on 1 January 2024, and so it has only been used in a small number of cases nationally which we have reviewed. We have also sought independent legal advice and tested our understanding of the guidance with NHS England so as an NHS organisation we can be confident we make the right choice legally in how to proceed.

“The ICB has engaged widely with the local population and continues to work closely with the Withnell patient steering group which provides strong advice on public sentiment. Last week I visited Withnell to speak to patients and explain the current situation and respond to any concerns they raised on behalf of their community.

“We will present a report to the committee on 14 March which recommends undertaking a competitive procedure within the new Provider Selection Regime guidance as quickly as possible. We believe the competitive procedure is the option which will give the quickest resolution. It will also allow us to use a new evaluation process which we have developed with involvement of the patient steering group and embeds learning from the procurement process in 2022. It provides an opportunity for a potentially quicker resolution within the timeframes we have set out, while ensuring we follow due process for equity and fairness. This also allows us to involve members of the public in the process and the evaluation, which didn’t happen last time.

“The legal advice received has confirmed that the ‘most suitable provider’ (MSP) route would involve the significantly wider identification, and possibly assessment, of all suitable and ‘likely’ providers. This would will potentially take longer and could presents greater risks for both from patient, provider and commissioner. perspectives.

“While this recommendation has been made, no decision has yet been taken regarding the process for appointing a long-term provider for Withnell Health Centre. This will be discussed by the committee next week when all options will be discussed in full.

“We remain committed to securing the best outcome for Withnell Health Centre and its patients within the legal guidance we are required and permitted to consider."

The full committee paper can be found at: Primary Care Commissioning Committee :: 14 March 2024

More information, frequently asked questions and key updates will be shared on the Withnell Health Centre page on our website.

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