Campaign calls for Parliamentary inquiry into Oxford PET-CT scan service privatisation

Sarah Wollaston MP, chair of the Parliamentary Select Committee.  Picture by Getty Images NNL-190717-115240001
Sarah Wollaston MP, chair of the Parliamentary Select Committee. Picture by Getty Images NNL-190717-115240001

The fight to prevent Oxford’s world-renowned, advanced scanning service being privatised has taken a new turn.

Keep Our NHS Public Oxfordshire (KONPOX) campaign has written to Sarah Wollaston MP, chair of Parliament’s Health Select Committee, asking her to enable Oxf0rd University Hospitals Trust (OUH) to retain the contract for the PET-CT scanning service.

The Churchill Hospital where the two fixed PET-CT scanners serving the region are installed NNL-180604-161930001

The Churchill Hospital where the two fixed PET-CT scanners serving the region are installed NNL-180604-161930001

NHS England (NHSE) has made InHealth its preferred bidder because it has offered to place mobile scanners at Milton Keynes and Swindon.

NHSE is prepared to allow OUH to continue all of its current work but not to hold the contract.

OUH bid for the service but had not been asked to extend it to other areas, so only offered to continue its world famous service which contributes to cutting edge cancer research.

Joan Stewart, a member of KONPOX, has asked Ms Wollaston to investigate the role of the Department of Health (DoH) which has twice declined to accept a referral of the matter by Oxfordshire Health and Scrutiny Committee to the Secretary of State for Health.

She described NHSE’s contracting as ‘a catalogue of failures (that) has led to great uncertainty and distress for cancer patients and clinicians, faced with the potential loss of an excellent quality and safe service at the Churchill site’.

In her letter Mrs Stewart said: “NHSE and the DoH have shown a cavalier disregard for the regulations.”

She asked Ms Wollaston and her committee to give the matter urgent consideration.

KONP claims NHSE failed to run a ‘robust’ feasibility study. It said NHSE’s original specification was inadequate and would have led to a downgraded service for patients. If it had specified the service now under discussion with OUH InHealth would not have been awarded the bid.

TheKONP letter reports the Banbury Guardian’s repeated and unsuccessful attempts through Freedom of Information to discover why OUH had suddenly capitulated to NHSE early this year having resolutely said it would not work with InHealth.

“What political pressure was applied to OUH between December 2018 and March 2019 is a matter for speculation, as ... relevant emails and letters have been withheld.

“Only when requested to attend an Oxfordshire scrutiny committee meeting in April, did NHSE submit a proposal for consideration. NHSE claimed it invited Oxfordshire County Council in 2016 to contribute to its engagement activity. However, this invitation related to the procurement design and not the proposal, a critical difference, which NHSE fails to acknowledge,” said KONP.

“NHSE says only when contract negotiations are about to be finalised, will it consult.”

“This shadow contract (making OUH a subcontractor doing most of the work) to be run by a national commissioning body not only indicates the determination of NHSE to adhere to its initial flawed decision to award ‘preferred bidder’ to InHealth but also raises the questionable strategy of diverting public monies to a commercial holding company for no effort, expense or risk, with a consequent reduction in funding for the current service.” said KONP.

NHSE said: “Oxfordshire Council was invited three years ago to contribute to this process, which has been run openly and fairly and entirely in line with relevant regulations.

“Contrary to these untrue assertions, the proposed partnership will offer patients far more convenient, faster services in Oxford and for the first time in Swindon and Milton Keynes.”

OUH held its Annual Public Meeting on Tuesday, July 16. One attendee said: “It was obvious from audience reaction that most people did not know about the proposal for a private provider to hold the contract until a question was put from KONP.”