Public Services

Major health partner pulls out of Cornwall Council joint venture

Charlotte Jee Published 05 February 2013

Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust withdrawal from strategic partnership with BT raises questions marks over future picture for strategic plan


The Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust (RCHT) has announced its decision to pull out of a strategic partnership with BT, Cornwall Council and other local healthcare organisations.

It follows a board meeting on 31st January when the Trust took a final decision on its involvement in the controversial Cornwall Council-BT joint venture.

In a message to staff, the RCHT's chief executive Lezli Boswell said, "The Board decision was made following changes to the scope of the project and consideration of legal advice. The Trust will now pursue alternative options for developing our IT and health records services to meet future staff and patient needs."

Aside from Cornwall Council, the RCHT is the other main partner in the venture, so its decision to withdraw may affect the expected viability of the partnership. It is understood that Peninsula Community Health, a not-for-profit NHS service provider and potential health partner in the shared services project which shares some of its ICT functions with RCHT, is still considering its options.

According to a blog post on the website of Independent councillor Andrew Wallis, one of the reasons RCHT pulled out is because legal advice it received suggested that the reduced scope of the joint venture created by Cornwall Council goes against EU procurement rules and value for money cannot be demonstrated with a single bidder.

The partnership has already been significantly watered down from its initial form in December 2012 when Cornwall Council voted to reject a full joint venture (JV) and instead opt for a 'thin' JV, meaning that BT, the sole remaining bidder, would only oversee telehealth, telecare, ICT and document management, with all other departments and services remaining in-house.

Under the original plans for a full JV, it was envisaged that BT would run a much wider variety of council and NHS services. After the council voted to reduce the scope of the joint venture in December, it was then turned over to the other partners in the venture, including RCHT, to approve or reject the new deal.

BT has said that it will keep its offer to the council open until the end of March 2013, and, according to a spokesperson, "We're continuing to work closely with the Cornwall Strategic Partnership, which we see as an exciting opportunity to improve services and reduce costs in the area."

In an e-mail to councillors, Cornwall Council CEO Kevin Lavery said, "We are obviously disappointed by this decision and now need to consider the implications with our other Health partners before deciding what course of action is to be taken."

The proposed partnership has been controversial from the start, leading to the resignation of deputy leader Jim Currie and a subsequent council vote to remove leader Alec Robertson and replace him with Currie. Immediately after Robertson's removal as leader in October 2012, CSC decided to withdraw from the bidding process, leaving BT as the sole remaining bidder.

Kevin Lavery, who was behind original plans for a full partnership with BT, is due to leave Cornwall in March order to take up a post as CEO of Wellington City Council in New Zealand.

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