An NHS trust has pulled out of a children’s therapy contract with Barnet Council after running into difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT) gave notice to end the contract for integrated therapies after the impacts of the pandemic “increased pre-existing delivery issues”, according to a council report.

The report reveals redirecting health services to care for patients with Covid-19 left some services, such as therapies, struggling to carry out their core duties. The trust has had “considerable difficulties with capacity, recruitment and retention of staff over the last 12 months”, it adds.

Members of the council’s urgency committee agreed to procure a new contract during a meeting on Thursday, July 8, after quizzing officers about when the issues came to light. The current deal with the trust ends in August.

Under questioning from council leader Cllr Dan Thomas, executive director of children’s services Chris Munday admitted that the contract should have been in a plan that allows the local authority to maintain oversight of procurement.

He said: “It wasn’t in the procurement forward plan, for which I apologise. It should have been.”

According to the committee report, the termination of the contract means the council is at risk of not meeting its statutory requirements in relation to assessments, the provision of therapies set out in education and healthcare plans, and quality of provision.

It adds that short to medium-term performance improvement measures have been put in place, and the council has been working with health providers to prioritise and increase the therapy support available to children and families, and schools. 

Whittington Health NHS Trust has been commissioned to lead recovery work over the summer and autumn terms.

The report proposed awarding an interim contract for one year, beginning on September 1, with the option to extend for a further year. The council will then undertake a fully competitive process to award the longer-term contract.

Members of the urgency committee unanimously agreed the report’s recommendations.