A plan to merge a company given a £315m contract to run Cornwall’s cottage hospitals with an NHS organisation has raised questions about why it was quasi-privatised in the first place.

The move has seen the handing of the contract to the not for profit company Peninsula Community Health called a failed experiement by Health Initiative Cornwall chair Graham Webster, who said the contract had diverted millions of pounds of NHS money away from front line services into corporation tax, VAT and other overheads".

The discission between Cornwall NHS Foundation Trust (CFT) and Peninsula Community Health is on their plans to look at the future of the delivery of health care in Cornwall and to assess how to support closer integration between both organisations.

Cornwall NHS Foundation Trust (CFT) and Peninsula Community Health will be carrying out a study to assess the benefits to patients for greater services integration between the two organisations which are the major providers of community based health services in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

MP Andrew George, a member of the Health Select Committee, met the Chair of the body which Commissions NHS services – Dr Colin Phillip of NHS Kernow – recently and discussed the potential benefits of a better integrated service.

Mr George said: “Providing that this brings our community hospitals and services back into the NHS, then this is a welcome move. Though it raises questions about the wisdom of quasi-privatising the service as they did in respect of PCH nearly 3 years ago.

“There would be significant benefits to patients if NHS services are integrated; and certainly better than adopting the model of competition between fragmented private providers as favoured by the Conservative side of the Coalition.

“I also welcome that the CFT and PCH will be involving staff, local people and GPs in their plans.”

Peninsula Community Health says that, "a range of options are being investigated as part of a scheme of work looking at the future delivery of care in Cornwall, particularly focusing on closer working".

Adding: "As part of this, Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CFT) and ourselves have announced plans to support closer clinical working and will be carrying out a study of the benefits to patients of greater service integration. The study aims to share expertise across the two organisations which are the major providers of community based services to the people of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. 

"If the study establishes patient benefits, both organisations could look to working together and help provide a stronger more resilient single organisation as they both share the belief that integrated working will deliver better, more efficient health services to local people. This would also enable them to meet the challenges of an ageing population needing better care for an increasing number of people living with long term conditions and dementia as well as making it easier for people to access NHS services."

Phil Confue, chief executive of Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are looking at options where patients will continue to be treated locally but with staff treating them being part of a wider team. We are just beginning this process but we will be involving  our staff, governors, members, local people and GPs in discussions about how we best develop services.”

Steve Jenkin, chief executive at Peninsula Community Health added: “In the current financial climate it is important that we focus on our main priority to keep high quality patient care at the heart of everything we do. Therefore we are looking at a range of options working with NHS Kernow and other providers that would use the strengths of each of our organisations to complement each other and enable us to deliver a high level of care, closer to home for our patients.”