A charity-led partnership has been awarded a £15 million contract to provide drug and alcohol recovery services in Brighton and Hove.
The move prompted questions, criticisms and an outcry from staff and campaigners at a meeting at the County Cricket Ground in Hove this afternoon (Tuesday 14 October).
The Pavilions Partnership, led by Surrey charity Cranstoun, beat three other bidders to win the three-year contract which has a potential two-year extension.
The winning bid was evaluated on price and quality with price being given a 30 per cent weighting.
The decision – made by the Brighton and Hove Health and Wellbeing Board – will have to be ratified at the Brighton and Hove City Council Policy and Resources Committee meeting on Thursday (16 October).
The Health and Wellbeing Board is mostly made up of representatives of the council and the Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
The contract decision is also subject to the director of public health Tom Scanlon being satisfied with the arrangements being made by the Pavilions Partnership.
The partnership, led by Cranstoun, is made up of seven other organisations. They are Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Equinox Care, Brighton Oasis Project, Brighton Housing Trust (BHT), SMART Recovery, Cascade Creative Recovery and Mind in Brighton and Hove.
The decision to award the contract to the Pavilions Partnership was criticised at a meeting of the Health and Wellbeing Board this afternoon.
Nick McMaster, branch communications officer for the union Unison, said that the service was being taken away from “an established and confident local NHS provider”.
He said that it appeared to be “a risky proposition with little impact assessment on the local health economy”.
He asked the Health and Wellbeing Board: “With the public generally having an emotional and practical attachment to their local NHS services, why did you and your officers not consider trying to build on that local provision instead?”
Council leader Jason Kitcat, who chairs the Health and Wellbeing Board, defended the process and said that the new contract involved a move from harm reduction to focusing more on recovery.
Councillor Kitcat said: “It will represent a significant service shift. We do not set the national laws of contracts (but) it’s been an exemplary process.”
Councillor Warren Morgan, leader of the opposition Labour group on the council, said: “I’ve got some very real concerns about where we’re being asked to go with this service.”
Among his concerns, he said, there was a risk that long-term local knowledge could be lost with staff feeling anxious about their job security and looking for other work.
He asked for the decision to be delayed – a move supported by Green councillor Rob Jarrett.
Councillor Jarrett said: “It’s quite understandable that there are concerns about the loss of local ownership and a number of people were concerned about the outcome of the procedure.”
He called for an impact assessment, adding: “I don’t think there’s going to be a local impact but I understand that there’s a concern about the question of whether there will be a local impact.”
Dr Scanlon said that drug and alcohol programmes had not always been ambitious enough for patients in the past.
He said: “We’ve kept people on drugs for a long time.”
The approach that led to the award of the new was, he said, quite different, adding: “The service users have totally been at the heart of this.”
He defended the Pavilions Partnership to those in the audience who had expressed opposition, saying: “It’s an NHS service, it’s a voluntary service. It scored best with the service users.
“You shouldn’t think we’re just a bunch of bureaucrats sitting here.”
He said that the Health and Wellbeing Board members cared just as much about the NHS and service users.
Dr Scanlon said: “This will deliver a much better service for people in Brighton. I am confident of that (and) we’ll make sure the transfer occurs in a smooth way.”
He warned that a deferral risked reducing the time available to ensure a smooth handover before the new contract started in April.
Councillor Geoffrey Theobald said: “As far as I’m concerned the people who matter most are the service users.”
He said that they would benefit from the new contract, adding: “We’ve already heard that we have quite a big problem here in Brighton (and) the current contract will run out.”
Councillor Kitcat threatened to clear the public seats during a series of interruptions, saying: “This is not a public meeting. It’s a meeting in public.”
After the board voted in favour of awarding the contract to the Pavilions Partnership, many members of the public left.
One shouted: “There will be more drug and alcohol deaths in Brighton as a result of this.”
The council’s Policy and Resources Committee will vote on the contract on Thursday (16 October) at Hove Town Hall. The meeting starts at 4pm and is open to the public.
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