Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge has been put into special measures after the collapse of the contract [Image: Lifescenes/Alamy].

An NHS contract worth £750m that collapsed in December after just eight months was effectively signed off by the regulator and NHS England, despite questions about its viability.

The contract – the biggest in NHS history – was the first designed to bring together hospital, mental health services and community care for adults and older people in Cambridgeshire, introducing a single point of contact for patients.

Signed in November 2014 after a 15-month procurement process that cost more than £1m, it was strongly opposed by local campaigners and trade unionists after several private bidders expressed an interest. Opponents feared it would mean transferring thousands of staff into the private sector.

In the end, the contract went to an NHS partnership called UnitingCare. It launched in April last year, promising to cut emergency admissions to hospital, saving millions of pounds. But by early December, all the partners agreed it was not financially sustainable.

In papers submitted to Cambridgeshire county council’s health scrutiny committee, Monitor revealed it had such grave doubts about the project that it only gave it the go-ahead the day before the launch. There were 34 outstanding issues remaining to be negotiated, a hearing of the committee was told last week.

Source: NHS watchdog signed off doomed £750m contract despite doubts | Society | The Guardian

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