Domiciliary carers in Derry are concerned old people may be sold short on the quality of their care after a Western Trust tender for a home visit contract was assessed 70 per cent on price but only 30 per cent on quality.
Sheree Campbell, Natasha Kealey and Christine Wilson, carers with the Glen Care group, which provides domiciliary care in Derry and across the West, told the Journal, how they fear clients will be treated unfairly in comparison with others areas, including Belfast, where similar contracts are weighted 40 percent on price and 60 percent on quality of care.
Ms Campbell, who provides home visits in Creggan, Bogside, Foyle Springs, Northland Road, said: “Why are we different? Why is the Western Trust making a difference in the North West, we should all be one. Everybody should be getting an equal amount of care.
“Our main concern is with the way they put the tender in, 30 per cent quality and 70 per cent cost. Why are we different? Why is the Western area different from the Northern area?”
Ms Wilson works largely in the Waterside, Tullyally and Drumahoe.
She said: “The emphasis in the tender should have been on the care more than on the price.
“Why 30 per cent here and 60 per cent 70 miles up the road? Why are their clients different from the North West.”
Ms Kealey, whose visits are largely in Creggan, Rosemount and The Glen, said there are also proposed efficiency savings of 11 per cent and fears this will bring further pressure.
“You feel pressured when you go into a client’s house. If you think there’s a timeframe and you can’t get everything done and then you’re rushing to another client.
“It’s not really nice for them, because they feel, well, I’m not appreciated...If they are going to reduce it by 11 per cent you are going to feel more pressurised.”
Ms Wilson: “They are like a family to us. For some, we are the only family they see, morning, noon and night and we are their lifeline.”
People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann, who hosted the care workers at Stormont on Monday, complained that quality of care is “given significantly less emphasis in our area than in others.”
He said: “The position is worsening everywhere, and at a faster rate in our area than elsewhere.”
He added: “This is, obviously, hard. demanding, vital work. It’s a disgrace that it is financed as if it were frippery.”
But a spokesperson for the Western Trust said: “The criteria for each Trust’s procurement process is a decision that is made in relation to how a competition is run; this is a decision for individual Trusts.
“The Western Trust is unable to comment on the weightings of price and quality used in the procurement process of any other Trust.
“Procurements under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 must use the Most Economically Advantageous Tender (“MEAT”) approach.
“In the recent Western Trust procurement process for the provision of domiciliary care services in the Western Health and Social Care Trust area, tenders were assessed on a weighting of 30 per cent quality and 70 per cent price.
“There were a number of stages through which a tenderer was required to pass in order to satisfy the Trust in respect of quality before any assessment of price was conducted.
“Tenderers first had to pass 6 selection criteria questions related inter alia to a tenderer’s financial standing and technical and professional ability, in order to progress to the award criteria evaluation.
“Only if a tenderer achieved a pass in all of the 6 selection criteria questions would the Trust score their responses to award criteria quality questions.
“Tenderers were then required to answer 10 award criteria quality questions. Any tenderer who achieved a score of 0 or 1 for any of the 10 quality questions would have their tender rejected and would be eliminated at that stage from the tender process.
“Therefore only those tenderers who successfully progressed through both the selection and award criteria questions for quality would have their price bid assessed by the Trust.
“The Contracts that have or are being competed are consistent in the quality of the service to be delivered in that all tenderers must be RQIA registered and all must comply with the Domiciliary Care General Terms and Conditions the primary focus of which is the quality of the service delivered to the service user.
“The Trust believes that given the requirements of the tender process, the service delivery model and the terms and conditions of Contracts awarded, that the quality of the service to the service user was a primary focus both in the tender process and in the service to be delivered under the Contracts.”