The Virgin Care group has landed a major £700 million NHS contract, which will enable them to coordinate over 200 healthcare services in Bath and North East Somerset.
According to NHS Bath and North East Somerset CCG, the deal will enable healthcare coordination to be strengthened in the region.
The CCTV had received numerous complaints from people who believe that the existing healthcare system is confusing to navigate.
Having agreed the deal, Virgin Care has announced that the contract will run for seven years, with the option to extend it for a further three-year period.
The CCG and the local council stated that this is in line with their current spending on community services.
This huge deal has resulted from a two-year engagement and consultation program, during which local staff and residents were enlisted to provide their views.
Dr Ian Orpen, clinical chair of the CCG, indeed indicated that this deal had been instigated based on the opinions of the local community.
“We have listened carefully to what local people had to say and we have a very good understanding of the improvements they would like to see. Virgin Care’s proposal means that services can be better co-ordinated and people will be supported to access all the services that can help them improve their health and wellbeing.”
Fifty community champions and subject matter experts were recruited in order to identify the priorities for healthcare in the region, and this group was also tasked with evaluating Virgin and its contender, Sirona Care & Health.
Cllr Vic Pritchard, cabinet member for adult social care and health at the Bath & North East Somerset Council, believes that the process which led to the involvement of the Virgin Care in the meeting had been transparent and cohesive.
Prichard is optimistic about the positive influence that Virgin Care can have on healthcare in the region.
“People told us they want more care delivered closer to home so services will be organised around GP practices providing access to a wider range of health and care professionals in people’s communities. They also asked us to join up services and information so that it’s easier for different professionals to work together to coordinate care. Virgin Care will enable this to happen by bringing people’s health and care records into one secure place.”
The CCG believes that opting for Virgin Care involvement will make it easier for the organisation to offer a variety of healthcare professionals, able to work together more closely and deliver better outcomes for patients.
It has also been announced that the council and the CCG will also include a clause in the contract which requires any financial surplus made by Virgin to be reinvested into services in the region.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Care company has been awarded a massive £126 million NHS contract.
Virgin Care will take over services at hospitals in Kent, having beaten Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust to the lucrative deal.
The terms of the agreement will result in the Branson-led corporation running health services in the Kent-based hospitals over a seven-year period.
Critics of the scheme have suggested that such deals should not be opened up to the private sector companies whatsoever.
At the end of this period, Virgin will have the opportunity to extend the contract for another three years.
The deal follows a tendering process that began in November 2014.
“After a rigorous procurement process, we are awarding Virgin Care the contract to provide adult community health services in there,” Patricia Davies, a spokeswoman for the two selecting bodies NHS Swale and NHS Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley, stated regarding the decision.
Virgin Care has significant experience in the NHS system, and has already acquired 330 contracts for NHS services across Great Britain.
But the National Health Action Party was hugely critical of the decision.
The pressure group, which opposes the stealth privatisation of the NHS, suggested that Virgin was being awarded contracts in such a way that it is not part of the public domain.
A spokesperson from the party commented that Virgin Care operates under the NHS badge, and is not the only private healthcare company to do so.
“There are many other private health companies also operating as ‘the NHS’, behind the name. The change from a publicly provided NHS to a privately provided one is being done piece by piece and the extent of the change is being hidden by keeping the logo.”
The party also suggested that the breaking up of services is not technically nor financially proficient, and is not ultimately in the public interest.
“Breaking up services in this way is not only expensive but causes disruption and removes parts of the NHS from public scrutiny, as private companies have no obligations to answer Freedom of Information requests, as the public sector does. We need transparency and accountability in the NHS.”
Additionally, it is suggested by the National Health Action Party that contracting out services is effectively siphoning money away from NHS frontline services.
“Contracting out services is an expensive business which is just one of the ways in which privatisation takes money away from front line care. It has been estimated that the cost of this market system is at least £4.5bn and may be as much as £10bn. That’s £1 in every £10 that the NHS spends.”
It is clear that the NHS faces massive financial difficulties, with deficits in the region of £30 billion predicted by the end of the decade.
In this context, it is obvious that some form of action needs to be taken, but many critics of government policy would instead like to see funding increased.