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Award-winning Bristol novelist backs campaign to keep children’s health services within the NHS, as private firms Virgin Care and Sirona Care are announced as the short-listed candidates for interim contract.

Earlier this week a Bristol Cable investigation revealed evidence that these two companies were vying for the Community Children’s Health Partnership (CCHP) contract.

Nathan Filer, whose début novel The Shock of the Fall tackles childhood schizophrenia, and won several major awards including the 2013 Costa Book of the Year, has added his voice to those calling on the Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to halt the privatisation of children’s health services across Bristol.

Nathan, a former mental health nurse, told the Cable:

“the concern I share with many others is that the motives of private companies to turn a profit mightn’t be aligned with what is best for patients.”

As we have reported, there is a fear that services could be split up during this procurement process.

Nathan added: “A problem often highlighted by users of mental health services is a lack of continuity in care. It doesn’t take much to imagine how distressing it might be for a person who is already going through a very hard time to have to explain themselves over and over to different professionals across a fractured service. Or worse yet, to find themselves in a wilderness between services, with nobody to turn to for help.

“This is a concern across all mental health care, but is especially worrying where young people are involved. There is strong evidence that the earlier we are able to identify and begin to support people with conditions such as psychosis, the better the long term prognosis. I’m deeply concerned that any splitting of services, and the confusion this would inevitably bring, could result in vulnerable young people slipping through the net.”

Today’s statement by the CCG says: “Virgin Care Services; and a partnership involving Sirona care and health CIC, Bristol Community Health CIC and Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust” are the two short-listed candidates. One of whom will be award a one-year interim contract to run CCHP services in autumn 2015.

It continues: “The interim provider will continue to deliver the current funded services, including:

  • Health visiting
  • School Nursing
  • Community Paediatrics
  • Speech and Language Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Child and Adolescent mental health
  • Specialist substance misuse services
  • Health services for Looked After Children and young offenders
  • Children’s Continence Service

Nathan concluded: “The future of our child and adolescent mental health services is of crucial importance to all of us living in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, not least our most poorly and vulnerable children. And so I add my voice to the campaign calling for these services to continue to be provided together and within the NHS.”

A campaign has been launched with Protect Our NHS who are holding a demonstration, to present a 38 degrees petition calling on CCG to keep Bristol’s children’s services integrated and within the NHS, at 12.30pm on Wednesday 26 August meeting at the Bearpit and walking to CCG offices at South Plaza, Marlborough Street.

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