It has been announced that community health and urgent care services in West Lancashire will be taken over by a private provider from April 2017.
Virgin Care will be replacing Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust in the borough.
And local residents have already been assured by the native Clinical Commissioning Group that all services commissioned within this process will continue to be delivered as part of the NHS and will still be free.
But the decision was met by outrage from West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper, who considers it “a slap in the face to local NHS providers and to the strength of residents’ opposition to the privatisation of their health services.”
These omments have been echoed by members of the UK’s largest health worker union, Unison.
Amy Barringer, UNISON North West’s Head of Health strongly opposes the involvement of Virgin Care in this agreement.
“Their decision to stop commissioning community services from the local NHS trust means that they have brought instability to the finances of Southport and Ormskirk Hospitals. The CCG has decided to enter into a complicated contracting relationship with a profit-seeking company. This will make it more difficult to integrate health and social care services.”
And John Flannery, UNISON Ormskirk & Southport Health Branch Secretary, was possibly even more scathing about this public-private partnership.
“We are deeply concerned by this decision which will destabilise the local health economy. This decision has been made behind closed doors. The CCG has failed to adequately consult the staff groups that deliver the services and the local population that uses them – neither group wants a private profiteer accessing our public funds. This issue has been raised directly with the CCG on many occasions but they have simply ignored this and continued along their predetermined path. We see this decision as the back door privatisation of our beloved NHS.”
Virgin Care points out that it has ttreated more than five million people since 2006.
The organisation already operates over 230 NHS and social care services throughout the country across primary, intermediate and community services.
Efforts have also been made by Virgin Care to regionalise their delivery of services.
The Virgin Care website claims that they “don’t have a one size fits all solution because every service we provide is designed around the needs of the local population. However, we do have a common approach to delivering the very best service we can for the local community.”
But many remain extremely concerned about such NHS tie-ins with the public sector.