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Contract awarded for new joined-up family support service in Essex

17 November 2016

Essex County Council is pleased to announce it has made a provisional decision to award a seven year contract to Virgin Care, in partnership with Barnardo’s, to run its new Pre-Birth to 19 Health, Wellbeing and Family Support Service across Essex.
The decision to award the contract to Virgin Care follows a robust and competitive procurement process and is subject to the council’s call-in and standstill processes.

The new service will combine a range of existing services from April 2017, including the Healthy Child Programme, Healthy Schools, Family Nurse Partnership and children’s centres.

In west Essex, the service has been jointly commissioned with NHS West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group and will also include children’s community nursing, paediatrics, therapies and specialist services.

Cllr Dick Madden, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Children, said: “I am pleased to have awarded the contract to Virgin Care and look forward to working with them as we launch this exciting new service.

“This flexible and innovative new way of working is about providing services without walls and ensuring we are reaching those families who need support the most.

“Families will still have easy access to local services, but staff will also be able to reach priority groups who do not currently use children’s centres, whether that is in a local clinic, play area or their own front room.”

Deborah Fielding, Chief Officer, NHS West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group said: “This is great news for local children and families, by working across the NHS and council we will be able to provide not just a more integrated service, but we will have joint ownership for managing these services together.

“It has been a meticulous process to get to the stage where we can provisionally announce the successful bidder and because families have been integral to our procurement and evaluation process, we feel confident and proud that we are able to commission a service for the long term that is absolutely grounded in quality outcomes for local families.”

The new model comes after Essex County Council spent about two years talking to families across the county about how health and family support services could be improved. 

The council also held a public consultation on planned changes to children’s centres, making a number of changes to the original proposals before formally approving the new family support model in June.

Children’s centres will be renamed as family hubs, reflecting their new role to coordinate a much wider range of services for families with children from pre-birth to age 19 (25 for children and young people with additional needs).

There will be 12 family hubs in Essex (one per district), supported by a further 25 family hub delivery sites and a number of local, outreach sites.