Ormskirk resident Barrie French describes himself as “The part-time accountability officer for the people of West Lancashire”. He’s a regular contributor to the Champion, as shown below, in 2019, particularly about the West Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group, which is, as you would expect, responsible for commissioning or buying healthcare for the people of West Lancashire.
“Since 1 April 2010 all information relating to expenditure over £25,000 spent by NHS organisations must be published on its website. Monthly details will be published by the 15th working day of each month.
“This is because the Government has set out the need for greater transparency so that the public is more easily able to hold public bodies and politicians to account. Expenditure is all individual invoices, grant payments, expense payments, payments to GPs, or other such transactions that are over £25,000. Payments to staff are excluded from this disclosure”.
In 2019 the CCG stated “Patients at risk of being admitted to hospital in West Lancashire are set to benefit from a new service providing care to them in their own homes. The short intensive support service (SISS), run by Virgin Care in partnership with West Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), will launch on October 1st.
“It will help make a difference to frail, older people and those with long term conditions who would prefer to be treated at home in a familiar environment rather than being taken in to hospital. It will also help to reduce pressure on accident and emergency teams”.
Barrie French takes up the story “We were told the SISS was to start in April 2019 but it didn’t. We were informed on 27 September 2019 it was to start 3 days later.
“I asked under the FOI act. “Who else was tendering? I was informed that there was no other company involved as it was part of a contract with Virgin Care with them winning the walk in centre contract. How did they come to the tender figure? This was never explained. “Who was involved in the how the SISS service was to run, when were the discussions held and minutes of the meetings? They sent me a email which was on scraps of paper with no figures on cost or any other items on how the contract would be run.
“In the contact [Is there a signed contract?] It says the main sourcing will come from GPs, 111, and the NWAS. Out off a total 177 seen [the contract total is 78] 13 were from GP, none from 111, and none from NWAS??? The contract also said it would have monthly reviews before giving a further 12 months contract but only 1 review was done but the new contact was awarded.
“So we are seeing a contract that was written on the back of cigarette packets and no minutes taken during its concept and here is a list of more none accountability. Contract sum £350,000 to see a maximum of 78 patients but it has seen 177 at a lower cost? When asked about the £500,000 for business matters in the contract no reply, which was asked under the FOI. [It’s called selective answers on FOI questions]
“There is no data on who has sent referrals to the service as most were not as per the main source of referrals, but most importantly who sent them for referral and who signed them off and did any of the referrals then go on to hospital, for without this information why give another contract to Virgin Care but West Lancashire CCG don’t do accountability, or due diligence!
“You would think the most important thing was patient care when someone needs to go to hospital you need a responsible person to carry this out as they are then responsible for that patient, after 3 days in the SISS service what happens next? Are they signed off or do they need sending to hospital as without a signature by a doctor/consultant it could lead to health and safety issues and then a legal problem. You need accountability. [I didn’t see anything to show they discussed this on the scrap paper they sent me to show how the SISS was planned]
Conclusion from Barrie French.
“This contract in my opinion has not been thought out from the start and was proposed by Virgin Care for Virgin Care and how it got to contract sums has not been fully explained. Did Virgin Care just come up with a figure and West Lancashire CCG just say “that seems ok?” [Again no figures on the scrap paper]
“Going into referrals and where to come from was not followed, number of referrals not as contract, costing not as contract, there should have been 6 reviews on the 6 month contract only 1 done, no data on the contract which has finished 4 months ago, and without all above a £990,000 was still handed to Virgin Care, so where is the accountability?
“West Lancashire CCG cannot even get the minutes of meeting correct, members of this board just pass them on as correct, again no accountability. We should have a full time chief officer not a part time one as it seems to me our part time chief officer has taken too much on, and it shows in what is happening now. But I expect West Lancashire CCG will still get a good rating from the NHS “Oversight and Assessment” team.
“This is the worst example how West Lancashire CCG carry out their “open and transparent” policy. In December 2019 the Chief Officer says he is leaving. A week later one word is changed in the local paper on his leaving but says he is returning. Alarm bells are now ringing so I ask under a FOI what was his leaving package, which informs me he not leaving not retiring but has been Made compulsory redundant with a £160,000 payment.
“West Lancashire CCG don’t apologise as this is West Lancashire CCG and they are not accountable to anybody, so who woke up one morning in August 2019 and said we don’t need a full time chief officer? I am still waiting to find out, was the chief officer upset after working in the NHS for 37 years and made redundant without a proper explanation or was it all part of a plan where he ended up with a £160,000 redundancy package whose plan was it? With him leaving and then the chairman, was this also part of the plan and as the 2000 Health and Social Care Act says, the public should be at the forefront of all decisions but not if your under West Lancashire CCG, as I have often said there is something of the night that goes on at “Hilldale Hideout”.
“They have informed me I am becoming burdensome and their next step could make me vexatious. This how they treat the public for asking questions they don’t like to answer, but asking questions on the FOI is the only way to get the truth, it seems they don’t like to be made aware of their none accountability by anybody”.
Signed Barrie French West Lancashire part time accountability officer for the people of West Lancashire [Acting unpaid].
Is Barrie French a burden and being vexatious just by seeking the open and transparent commitments the CCG has made? As in to “Fairly prioritise and invest resources, based on local health need, to ensure that the population are supported to live healthy lives” To be “Open and transparent local decision making and local accountability. We will explain our decisions and on what basis these decisions were taken”. To be “Listening and valuing views of local people, so we can continually improve the way we work and the health services we buy” and to be “Collaborating effectively with the public, patients and partner organisations to achieve our vision and aims”? Of course he isn’t, he’s complying with what the CCG offers, above, and long may he continue to do so.