A Labour MP called on the government to investigate after dubbing a Tory council decision ‘a political fix’ for awarding a health contract to a Macclesfield-based NHS Trust.
Andrew Miller, MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, who raised the matter in Parliament, has been contacted by medics concerned about Cheshire West and Chester Council’s decision not to award the contract for sexual health services in the borough to the existing provider at the Countess of Chester Hospital but to approve instead a bid by Cheshire East NHS Trust.
The new service is now operational but the decision has proved controversial because it is more expensive at £2.75m – compared with the Countess team’s £2.5m – and there was no input in the decision-making process at a consultant level or from local GPs, leading to a backlash from medics who highlighted the existing service as ‘excellent’.
Mr Miller told the House of Commons: “In responding to my honourable friend Ms Eagle, the Leader of the House referred to inputs as well as outputs in the public sector. With that in mind, may I bring to his attention a recent contract relating to sexual health in Cheshire, where the winning bid appears to have been allocated not on the basis of value for money or the right skill set, but a political fix?
“This is a very serious issue about public integrity. May we have a debate about such contracts? Will the Leader of the House ask both the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to investigate this very serious matter?”
The Leader of the House, William Hague MP, responded: “The hon gentleman would not expect me to be familiar with the particular matter he raises, but before any consideration of a debate it would be best for him to write with the details to the Secretaries of State for Health and for Communities and Local Government.
“I will certainly alert them to what he has said today, but he will need to give them the details of what he is alleging for them to be able to look into it.”
Council spokesman Ian Callister said: “The reasons why the contract was awarded to the East Cheshire NHS Trust have been fully stated. That bid was preferred simply because it was considered to provide a better quality, innovative service and offered a community-focused and better integrated model.
“As we have also stated before, offering the lowest price does not necessarily guarantee success if the quality of the proposal is not of a sufficiently high standard compared to other bids.”