Regional plan for commissioning being considered

The Department of Health is considering a proposal for regional
commissioning of domiciliary services and residential nursing care
for older people, writes Derren

The controversial proposal has been put forward by Sir Peter
Gershon as part of his review of how to make public services more
efficient. The Treasury has asked the DoH whether procurement
agencies could be set up to buy beds in care homes and home care
services on behalf of a number of different authorities.

Fees would be set regionally and tendering processes
standardised across authorities, doing away with the variations
that currently exist across councils. The Treasury believes this
approach could make the process quicker and cheaper for
authorities, although Community Care understands that the
Department of Health is less keen on the ideas. 

A form of regional procurement already exists in some areas,
with authorities forming consortia to buy IT solutions and office
equipment in bulk.

However, the proposals to extend the principle to care services
have been criticised by the Local Government Association the
Association of Directors of Social Services.

Andrew Cozens, president of the ADSS, said local government had
controlled demand and kept the cost of services down since it began
managing older people’s care services 10 years ago.

“If this was done regionally it would almost certainly
lead to larger national providers dominating the market and costs
increasing,” he added.

But Fiona Street, acting chair of the UK Home Care Association,
said if commissioning was streamlined to take into account regional
variations in staff availability, pay rates and ethnic diversity
there could be a number of benefits.

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