£1 million at risk as Devon contractor reneges on deal

£1 million of taxpayers’ money at risk as contractor Optum reneges on agreement

UNISON is calling upon Devon County Council to save £1m of tax payers’ money as a dispute escalates due to failings within the Council’s procurement process.

At a time when Devon NHS Services face a £402m black hole by 2020 an unnecessary dispute exists following the Commissioning of a Healthy Lifestyle Service that may cost up to an additional £1m and leave employees’ contracts terminated.

The Healthy Lifestyle Service’s (Health Promotion Devon) currently provided by Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust works with people in the community who want to improve their health and wellbeing. The service aims to help people to stop smoking, increase physical activity, eat healthily and develop sensible drinking habits.

Devon County Council re-tendered the contract which was successfully awarded to a different organisation (Optum), however, at a staff briefing in July, employees were advised that Optum refuse to accept the transfer of employees, something which both UNISON and Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust challenge.

Oliver Foster-Burnell, UNISON Regional Organiser said:

“This is a terrible situation for our members who are providing an excellent service to the Public across Devon. Despite a number of exchanges with the Council as the Commissioner, on behalf of our members, the Council has failed to intervene to rectify what is likely to be a lengthy and costly legal challenge. In the meantime, our members’ jobs are at risk in what should be a straightforward process”.

“Despite Optum, the successful provider, stating that our members’ jobs do not exist within the re-commissioned service, UNISON has obtained evidence that the jobs being carried out within the service are currently advertised online in an attempt by a Private Sector provider to avoid taking on highly skilled employees with the associated costs and leaving the tax payer to foot the bill.

Oliver continued:

“We have had sight of documents created by Devon County Council that show the intention was for the successful provider to take on the employees currently working within the service.  Our position is clear, Optum have a legal obligation to receive the staff currently working within the Contract and Devon County Council have the responsibility to ensure this happens. Optum have argued that our members’ jobs do not exist, that simply is not true as the organisation have advertised them for all to see.”

“The transfer of contracts between organisations is something experienced by UNISON on a daily basis and in the majority of cases this is a smooth transition. The financial situation faced by the Devon Health Economy is a stark one, £402m deficit by 2020, an additional £1m isn’t acceptable”.

“UNISON are calling on Devon County Council to exercise their duty as a responsible Local Authority Commissioner to ensure the costs are not borne by the tax payer.”