Devon NHS 111 withdrawal raises commercial concerns

2.5 million regional patients seen as benchmark for contractual viability

The preferred provider for the NHS 111 service in Devon has confirmed the withdrawal of its bid to provide the service.

Devon Doctors cited commercial factors for its decision to withdraw, leading to fears that other providers may find themselves facing similar prospects. It is understood that vendors have concerns about whether they are winning enough contracts to provide the economies of scale that make it commercially worthwhile for them to provide services.

Chris Wright, the chief executive of Devon Doctors, confirmed that commercial considerations meant that his organisation was not in a position to proceed and had withdrawn its bid to operate the service.

“At the same time, Devon Doctors remains fully committed to the principles of NHS 11 and in our role as provider of the county’s out-of-hours service, we look forward to working with the organisation which is awarded the contract to ensure the people of Devon continue to benefit from a first-class healthcare service,” he added.

The NHS cluster for Devon, Plymouth and Torbay said that the NHS 111 contract for Devon was provisionally awarded to Devon Doctors as the preferred bidder following a competitive tendering process.

It added: “There is a period of time following a provisional contract award when both parties move to conclude the contract. Devon Doctors concluded that they were unable to meet the requirements of the NHS 111 contract for Devon and have subsequently withdrawn their bid. As a result, the award of the NHS 111 contract for Devon has been delayed and alternative options are being considered.”

Other local contracts in the south west have gone to NHS Direct in Cornwall and Somerset and the Scilly Isles, while Harmoni has picked up three contracts in the area.

Some providers believe that to be commercially viable, as a guideline, they need to be delivering NHS 111 services to about 2.5 million patients. Harmoni is estimated to have around 6 million patients – 2.3 million in the South-West and 3.7 million in the London area.

Other areas where bidding still has to be concluded include the north-west, east and west Midlands, and Yorkshire and Humberside.

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