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Suffolk: Community healthcare service is “deteriorating” as report raises concerns about Serco performance

17:09 15 January 2014

Archant © 2006

Bosses at the private firm providing community healthcare in Suffolk were told last night they must make immediate improvements after a scathing report revealed a catalogue of failings.


Delays of up to five months in providing equipment, such as specialist beds, slings and hoists, and poor communication were among the concerns raised about the performance of the Community Equipment Service (CES), part of Serco-run Suffolk Community Healthcare.

Health chiefs say the report, released ahead of a county council health scrutiny committee meeting next week, show there are issues which need to be urgently addressed to rectify a “deteriorating” service.

Particularly singled out for criticism has been the delay in equipment provision, which the report says has a negative affect on the independence of patients.

Alan Murray, county council cabinet member for health and adult care, said: “The service is not improving, if anything it is deteriorating. My department is trying to work very hard with Serco management to improve the current situation which we are finding increasingly unacceptable.

“The delays in equipment delivery is unacceptable.

“The only thing that matters, ultimately, is the users, carers and their families.”

The report has also stated that the county council has had delays in receiving invoices from CES and when they have eventually been received, they have not had enough supporting detail and contained “significant errors”.

There have also been concerns about difficulties in contacting CES stores.

A spokesman for the Ipswich and East Suffolk and NHS West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups said: “The Health Scrutiny Committee met with the CCGs and Serco Suffolk Community Healthcare last year. This is a follow-up meeting to find out how the NHS contract for community services in Suffolk is performing.

“The CCGs monitor the performance of the contract and report to the governing bodies on a regular basis. There have been some actions we have taken through our contracting and clinical quality teams to improve performance, including the community equipment service. We are continuing to work with Serco and where necessary changes are being implemented so that the needs of patients are met and the planned transformation of services continues.”

It is just over a year since Serco officially took on the role of providing community health services, which includes district nurses and community hospitals, to about 600,000 patients in Suffolk.

The CES is an integrated service providing equipment for people with health and social care needs.

It is not the first time Serco has faced pressure from health officials and groups. In November they were told “the honeymoon is over” during a CCG meeting for failing to meet key targets.

Patrick Birchall, Chief Executive of Suffolk Community Healthcare, said: “Serco is working closely with the council and the CCG to provide high-quality services and we are working hard to make further improvements for our patients.

“We have only just received the papers, which include new information that has not been raised with us previously. This is a complex service, so it will take some time to check the details.

“We will discuss the paper with the health scrutiny committee next week and our response will be made publicly available.”

The Health Scrutiny Committee will meet on January 22.



  • Exactly eight IMP. On top of providing a service that the government coffers struggle to keep pace with, hiving public services to private companies always spell disaster as they need to cream off a healthy profit too, meaning they cut back andor increase charges. I can't think of any privatisation that has seen an improved and cheaper service as a result.

    Report this comment


    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

  • Going the way of every Public Sector Privatisation , wait till the police start having big parts of their role taken over by the private companies ! Any business will put profit before service - simple - They answer to shareholders not the public

    Report this comment

    Poppys Dad

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

  • What do people expect? If you give contracts to the lowest bidders you will inevitably get the lowest standard of service. Either we have an NHS or we go private. NHS services should be provided by the NHS not some faceless company who has their fingers in all sorts of pies and only cares about their shareholders and profits.

    Report this comment


    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

  • You put profits before patients and that's what happens . CES wasn't that complex before Serco fudged it up.

    Report this comment

    Nigel Large

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

  • I think you'll find that's already happening, Poppy's Dad. Unfortunately all political parties are intent on privatising so many elements of services which should be provided by government, both local and national, that this will never stop. Some Tories would be content on businesses running ALL public services and Labour are just as guilty of introducing companies like Serco and the infamous ATOS into the public sector. Even our local Labour council is intent on putting various services out for tender while pretending to support 'public sector jobs for the public sector. It's time to remove ALL private businesses from the NHS, DWP, Police et al and fund these correctly. Serco et al make millions out of each and every one of us from our VAT, income tax, alcohol and petrol duty which pays for these services. Profits to that infamous 1% that could be better used to provide a proper service where statistics and balance sheets serve only to show reasonable not minimal expenditure and the knock on effect of properly funded services will benefit us ALL.

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    Mister Cynical

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

  • IMP for primeminister [ best comment i have read for a long time.

    Report this comment


    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

  • We were provided with a specialist sling by CES but during an regular 6 monthly inspection it was deemed unusable and should be replaced, but because it was less than a year old it was sent back to manufacturer by CES, obviously to save money. However it took more than 10 phonecalls and nearly six months to get it back, repaired and available to use. No one seemed able to chase it up unless we pushed them. It was like kicking a dead whale across a beach and I do wonder how many vulnerable disabled people are left for months without necessary equipment with no-one to fight on their behalf.

    Report this comment


    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

  • What do people expect? If you give contracts to the lowest bidders you will inevitably get the lowest standard of service. Either we have an NHS or we go private. NHS services should be provided by the NHS not some faceless company who has their fingers in all sorts of pies and only cares about their shareholders and profits.

    Report this comment


    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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