Sunday, 29 November 2015

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Government urged to step in to Cumbrian hospital pharmacy contract row

An MP is calling on the government to get to the bottom of a row over who should run a pharmacy at a new £11m hospital.

Cockermouth hospital photo
Cockermouth hospital

Workington’s Tony Cunningham says it is time for the truth about the controversial tendering process for the pharmacy at the new hospital in Cockermouth.

The Labour politician has submitted formal written questions to Parliament regarding the decision to award the contract to Trinity Pharma, which trades at Castlegate Pharmacy.

Shareholders in Trinity Pharma are GPs from the town surgeries, which are all moving to the new hospital.

The decision prompted chemist JWW Allison to claim that the contract had been awarded without a proper tendering process.

Mr Cunningham has now called on the Secretary of State for Health to review the process. He also questioned whether it is government policy to encourage the NHS to use GP-owned pharmacies rather than those run by professional pharmacists.

Mr Cunningham wants to know what guidance the department has issued to NHS bodies on the need to conduct a proper market tender before entering into a commercial lease for a pharmacy.

He told the News & Star: “I want to get to the bottom of what’s been going on.

“There are always two sides to every story and I want to get to the truth so we can get the hospital open as soon as possible.

“The idea of these questions is to try and find out exactly what went on [in the tendering process].”

He also said brief responses he had received from health ministers do not go far enough.

Daniel Poulter, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, said that any decisions regarding the Cockermouth hospital site were a local matter.

He added that it would be up to NHS England to consider if a review of the tendering process would be appropriate.

Health Minister Norman Lamb denied that the government encourages any particular business sector to own NHS pharmacies.

He said: “It is for NHS England to commission NHS pharmaceutical services according to the needs of local populations.”

Mr Poulter insisted that NHS organisations have only been given guidance on managing their land and property, rather than for specific uses, such as a pharmacy.

Mr Cunningham said: “If I don’t get a decent response in a reasonable amount of time I will be submitting further formal written questions.”

JWW Allison, which has been in the town for more than 100 years, claimed it was told there would be a chance for everyone to bid for the contract.

But this didn’t happen and director Nat Mitchell said he believed it was because NHS Cumbria feared the doctors would pull out of the new development if they did not win the contract. After the chemist’s calls for a full judicial review failed, he called for the health secretary to scrutinise the way NHS Cumbria acted.

Trinity Pharma director Dr Simon Desert previously insisted that the GPs were not going to make big profits from the pharmacy, as it will be open long hours and at weekends and as a result will have large overheads.

He added all doctors want is to improve services for the community.

He also blamed the legal bid for delaying the opening of the hospital, but Mr Mitchell says the hospital could have opened without a pharmacy.

Dr Desert said their priority is now to get the hospital open by July.


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