Plans to improve the 111 service have been put on hold for patients and the public in Brighton and Hove.
The contract for the non-emergency number had been put out to tender but the process has been halted.
And not only has the Sussex-wide tender been halted, but the same has happened in Kent and – it is believed – elsewhere.
The Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group is one of a consortium of CCGs involved in trying to put in place the next contract.
It was advertised as a five-year contract, with the possibility of a further two years subject to performance.
The successful bidder could expect to earn more than £10 million a year or £72 million over seven years.
Currently the South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb), working with Care UK, provides the service across Sussex and Kent, with the contract due to end at the end of next March.
David Supple, the clinical chair of the Brighton and Hove CCG, said: “It’s about how ambitious it was – and still is – it wasn’t just about the size.
”It’s a large and complicated tender but it hasn’t worked so far.”
Dr Supple said that the tender process would be run again, adding: “The hope is that there would be one telephone number for every provider out of hours. The dream is for seamless care.”
He added that it was more important to get it right than rush the process.
An email said: “The current procurement for the new NHS 111/Clinical Assessment Service for Sussex has been stopped.
“The organisations who submitted bids to run the new service have been notified of this outcome through the approved procurement channels.
“This wasn’t an easy decision to make but our CCG (clinical commissioning group) accountable officers and clinical chairs, including Amanda Philpott, Dr David Warden and Dr Martin Writer, agreed it was the right decision.
“We may look to revisit the specification on the basis of the increased maturity of the National Integrated Urgent Care model.
“You may have heard that Kent have also stopped their current procurement process.
“The Sussex NHS 111 Transformation Team has been liaising with NHS England who is in full support of stopping this procurement.
“Over the next few weeks the Sussex NHS 111 Transformation Team is pulling together an options paper that will be presented to the (CCG) governing bodies in the next few months.
“This decision may have an impact on our local procurements around urgent treatment centres and this is being looked into right now by our commissioning managers.”
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