Millbrook Healthcare’s wheelchair services contract, which covers eight CCGs across Kent, requires an additional £2m from commissioning groups so it can tackle waiting times.
Leading commissioners ceded that there are lessons to be learned but disregarded calls to terminate the £6.2m a year contract and instead said it was better to work through challenges.
Millbrook has held the contract since April 2017 and now more than 2,000 patients have been waiting more than 18 weeks for equipment, compared with over 1,000 when it took over from the previous provider.
According to a report to commissioning groups, the increasing complexity of cases has meant the equipment budget has been overspent by 21%.
Now, CCGs are being asked to set aside money which includes over £1m to cover cost pressures associated with complex referrals; over £500,000 to cover inherited caseload, additional therapists and van leasing; £276,000 of ‘start up’ stock that was not received from the previous provider; a potential further £480,000 to meet cost pressures in the final three years of the contract.
The report from Kent County Councils’ health overview and scrutiny committee noted that there had been calls in recent months to strip Millbrook of its contact.
Professor Mike Oliver, who represents the Kent Wheelchair Users’ Group, said he did not accept the CCG’s decision to continue working with Millbrook to resolve the problems and said he was considering writing an open letter to CCG Clinical Chairs to say that the contract should not be continued.
The report stated that Thanet CCG had been advised on the timescale and cost that would be involved if it were to re-tender the contract.
“It is not possible simply to remove a contract and offer it to another provider… This is a further reason why we believe working with Millbrook Healthcare to resolve contract challenges is the route most likely to get the best outcomes for patients in the shortest time, although we will keep this contract under review.”
The CCG said “there are lessons from this experience” and it is setting up a service user improvement group to help deliver improvements.
Millbrook has been asked to develop an improvement plan to deal with the backlog quickly and also to present data to the CCG that distinguishes between the inherited and the new backlog.
Ailsa Ogilvie, chief operating officer at Thanet CCG, said in July that the backlog was not known at the time of awarding the contract and since the contract began, there had been “significant requests for powered chairs that had exceeded procurement expectations”.
In the first year of the contract Millbrook Healthcare raised concerns regarding the inherited backlog.
The CCGs and Millbrook said in a joint statement that 10 new staff members have been recruited, more equipment has been ordered and the repairs waiting list has been reduced.
They said: “Wheelchair users in Kent and Medway and their families remain at the heart of our service improvements, and it is our aspiration to ensure they get an excellent service.”