Peninsula Community Health To End St Mary’s Hospital Contract

St Mary's hospital

St Mary’s hospital

Peninsula Community Health, who operates St Mary’s Hospital, is ending its contract with the NHS from the end of next March.

It means that staff will have a new employer from 1st April.

As yet it is uncertain who that will be, but both NHS Kernow, who will recruit the new operator, and PCH have told Radio Scilly that the twenty or so jobs at St Mary’s are safe.

Dr Ian Chorlton, the Clinical Chair for NHS Kernow, says that he doesn’t anticipate redundancies. And Ian says that the range and quality of services delivered at St Mary’s will remain the same and users shouldn’t notice any difference.

He says it is, “just the badge above the door that will change.”

Ian tells Radio Scilly that today’s announcement is not about taking services away and that St Mary’s hospital staff, physiotherapists and district nurses will continue to have a crucial role in providing health services on the Isles of Scilly.

Steven Jenkin, the Chief Executive of outgoing contractor PCH, says he’s committed to working towards a smooth transition to a new operator and they’ve given notice early so there’s time to plan for the future.

Steven wants to reassure Scilly’s patients that they are “not disappearing tomorrow” and they have nine months to shape future provision together.

Nevertheless, today’s news will come as a blow to many patients in Scilly.

Just two months ago, the Care Quality Commission rated PCH as ‘good’ following an unannounced inspection of services in the thirteen hospitals they manage across Scilly and Cornwall.

They were one of only two service providers in the southwest to achieve that grade.

Steven has today paid tribute to the work of Matron Anita Bedford and her team for their work at the hospital and says there’s no reason why that can’t continue.

So why has Peninsula pulled out?

Steven Jenkin says the workload has increased, there’s not enough money on offer and they are restricted because of the way PCH was set up.

Back in 2011 when the Labour government re-ordered NHS provision, some islanders voiced concern that the health service was being privatised.

Community interest companies – not-for-profit bodies – were identified as a suitable vehicle for delivering the contracted out services.

Peninsula was set up as one of these new CIC organisations, but that means it cannot go into deficit. It doesn’t own its buildings, like St Mary’s Hospital. It leases them, so PCH has no assets to borrow against.

PCH’s directors felt that they’d run out of money in the long-term and that would mean they couldn’t legally operate.

Steven says that healthcare requirements have changed since 2011 and PCH has had to deliver more.

Four years ago they provided 280,000 community nursing visits in Scilly and Cornwall. Last year that number had risen to 370,000.

And in Scilly, there’s been a significant increase in the number of people that they are seeing and supporting. All of that has increased their costs.

Essentially it is all down to money. PCH’s contract for running the region’s hospitals and services  is worth around £85m annually.

Steven says it is no longer enough but if more money could be found, they may be able to continue.

NHS Kernow’s Ian Chorlton says they did increase their offer but it just wasn’t enough to provide a solution acceptable to their directors.

Ian is sure that they’ll find a new contractor and he says it’s unlikely to be a private, commercial operator.

He says the healthcare landscape has changed. Today there’s been a greater drive for efficiencies and value for money, which makes these contracts less attractive to profit-driven businesses.

It seems that Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, who run Truro’s Treliske Hospital, could be a likely bidder.

Although Ian Chorlton says no organisation is lined up to take over at St Mary’s, he says that NHS Kernow already works with providers in Cornwall and his commissioning body intends to talk with them proactively.

The special requirements of St Mary’s and Scilly patients would present an additional challenge for contractors unfamiliar with the islands.

Both Steve and Ian accept that Scilly presents unique challenges, particularly with staff recruitment and accommodation.

Ian says those special circumstances will be taken into account when appointing the new contractor. And Ian says the work to contract the new St Mary’s Hospital service provider, will start tomorrow.

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