Medics bid to run £48m Bristol mental health services

A group of doctors and clinicians want to take over the running of most mental health services in Bristol.

Currently, Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) has the £48m-a-year contract from the local NHS, but this will finish in two years’ time.

Some staff at AWP want to set up a new Social Enterprise (SE) and then bid for the contract to run the services.

A SE is a business with social objectives where any profits are reinvested in the company or community.

They are part of the government’s shake-up of the NHS which aims to give staff more say in how it is run.

‘Too centralised’

A separate Mental Health Trust for the greater Bristol area was first discussed in 2009 by some AWP staff in Bristol.

A paper was published which said the trust HQ in Chippenham was too far away and that decision making at AWP had become too centralised with the dissolution of local management structures.

Professor David Mumford, a consultant psychiatrist at AWP, said: “A staff-led social enterprise gives us a chance to create a new mental health service for Bristol, run by local doctors, nurses, psychologists, tailored to local needs and working with local partners such as social services, GPs and the voluntary sector.

AWP will meet next week to decide whether to sign off the bid. Two thirds of staff in Bristol want to pursue it and they have backing from one of the city’s MPs.

Dawn Primarolo, Labour MP for Bristol South, said: “I don’t feel we’re getting the best we’re entitled to at this time – a Bristol-focussed service will be better.”

Hazel Watson, director of nursing at AWP, said she was aware doctors in Bristol were investigating a different model for providing services which “may or may not work for Bristol.”

“We provide a local service in Bristol and there shouldn’t be anything around organisational structures that makes that either better or worse.”

AWP provides specialist mental health services operating across Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire.