Care commissioning alliance may force out ‘poor providers’

Six West London councils have joined forces to procure and commission adult care services worth about £220m in a move one director said would drive providers offering poor value for money out of the market.

The West London Alliance – which has been in operation since 1998 – believes savings of 5%, or £11m, could be made across the six boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon and Hounslow – in residential and domiciliary care, and self-directed support.

First such arrangement

It is thought this is the first formal arrangement of its type, though councils have worked together informally before.

James Reilly, director of community services for Hammersmith & Fulham council, and also chair of the WLA’s social care directors management board, said the set up will help the councils address “inconsistencies” in service provision by providers and would help the providers adjust to self-directed support.

He said: “Having to deal with a larger buying force and a more co-ordinated buying arrangement should drive out the inconsistencies we get at the moment.

Poor providers ‘should be driven out’

“Providers who provide quality care at a good price will thrive, while those providers who provide poor quality and price won’t thrive and should be driven out of the market.”

However, the alliance, which is currently looking at the pricing and procurement of residential care, is also stressing the advantages for providers in dealing with commissioners across a wide area.

Gareth Daniel, chief executive of Brent Council and sponsor chief executive in the WLA for the adult social care programme, said he hoped the efficiencies made would help in meeting the resource pressures that will face all local authorities in the coming years.

£11m in savings

He said: “I would personally be disappointed if the savings on the £220m adult social care project were less than 5% per annum or around £11 million between the six boroughs.

“Councils are looking to make savings in coming years so it would not be unreasonable if we seek to achieve similar savings from care providers.”

Set up will improve service delivery

But Colin Angel, head of policy and communication for the United Kingdom Homecare Association, which represents homecare providers across the UK, voiced concerns that it would lead to “uneconomic, onerous or disadvantageous terms” being imposed across a wide geographic area because of the WLA’s procurement power.

And he added: “We think there’s an inbuilt temptation to reduce costs rather than increase quality because it’s much easier to measure a decrease on price than the less tangible performance indicator of quality.” 

Work began 18 months ago to set up the project, which followed a report by consultants Deloitte on the potential of collaborative commissioning. The six are also looking at setting up a similar programme for children’s social care services.

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Collaborative commissioning: why London councils are clubbing together to buy services


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