NHS Northamptonshire has ended its contract for commissioning services with UnitedHealth UK a year early, the primary care trust has confirmed.

The three year deal between the PCT and UnitedHealth UK was one of the first contracts signed under the Framework for procuring External Support for Commissioners and was due to run until July next year.

In a statement issued to EHI Primary Care, John Parkes, chief executive of NHS Northamptonshire, said: “The NHS landscape has changed significantly since the deal first began, PCT priorities have shifted and as a result both parties agreed to conclude the project in July.”

Parkes said the PCT chose to work with UnitedHealth for its UK and international experience in commissioning and said the collaboration had some “notable successes” including improvements in the use of data and pathways for patients with chronic disease.

He added: “UnitedHealth have had a significant impact in the organisation’s improvement as a first class commissioner and I’d look forward to working with them again.”

In January, Parkes gave evidence at the Parliamentary Health Committee’s enquiry into commissioning and said the PCT’s FESC contract was “the largest FESC contract in the country”.

He told MPs that he believed that employing an external company or external consultants would help the PCT more than meet its then 30% target efficiency savings.

UnitedHealth’s contract with the PCT covered health needs assessment, acute invoice validation, patient experience measurement and communication and social marketing.

In its written evidence to the Health Committee, United Health said work on acute invoice validation was expected to produce savings of £1.07m between July and December 2009.

It also said it had developed a savings work plan with savings of £6.9m, with an additional £15.9m projected savings through initiatives under development.

United Health told the Health Committee that its key FESC work included partnerships with Northamptonshire PCT, North East Lincolnshire PCT, Berkshire West PCT and the South Central Specialised Commissioning Group.

It added: “In some of these contracts we have taken risk, meaning we do not get paid our fees unless we drive savings for the PCTs.”

In supplementary evidence the Department of Health said the cost of the FESC contract with Northamptonshire was £1.8m, net of guaranteed savings.

The Health Committee’s report on commissioning said PCTs clearly lacked the skills needed for commissioning but said it was concerned that FESC “is an expensive way of addressing PCTs’ shortcomings.”

In its response to the report, the coalition government said its plans for GP commissioning included a maximum allowance to cover management costs.

It added: “It will be for consortia to decide how they use this allowance to undertake commissioning activities themselves and how far they buy in support from other organisations including local authorities, voluntary organisations and the independent sector.”

The government adding that it would be inviting views on what support GP commissioning consortia would need to access and evaluate external providers of commissioning support to help ensure value for money.

UnitedHealth UK told EHI Primary Care that it had nothing to add to the PCT statement.