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Trusts challenge council over Virgin Care’s contract

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31 January 2018

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Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust (LCFT) and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals (BTH) have challenged Lancashire County Council’s (LCC) decision to award a children’s services contract to Virgin Care.

Suspended decision

A spokesperson for LCFT said that ‘further to the hearing that took place on 25 January, the court has ruled that the contract can’t be awarded at this point’.

Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust (LCFT) and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals (BTH) have challenged Lancashire County Council’s (LCC) decision to award a children’s services contract to Virgin Care.

Suspended decision

A spokesperson for LCFT said that ‘further to the hearing that took place on 25 January, the court has ruled that the contract can’t be awarded at this point’.

They continued: ‘We're working towards a trial date in April, therefore we will continue to provide the service in the interim.

‘We cannot comment further at this stage due to the ongoing legal process.’

In September 2017, LCC invited suppliers to tender for 0-19 services, which cover four areas.

LCFT, who currently run the service until March 2018 opted to bid for public health nursing services while partnering with BTH.

But in December 2017, LCC awarded the £108m contract to Virgin Care over the next five years.

Private sector

Figures from NHS Support Federation show that the private sector share of NHS contracts has risen by more than 10% since 2015-16.

In 2016-17, for-profit companies won £3.1bn worth of new contracts. 

With £1bn worth of clinical contracts, which represents a third of the total value of contracts won by non-NHS provider, Virgin care is now the dominant private provider in the NHS.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said that ‘the collapse of Carillion, which had many NHS contracts, including managing 11,800 beds, has brought the outsourcing of public services to profit-hungry private companies into disrepute’. 

She continued: ‘The public mood is such that it would be entirely appropriate for the county council to reconsider the awarding of this contract in the interests of those children who receive these services. 

‘This is once again the thin end of the wedge. There will be concerns from health visitors about how much they will be required to compromise their professional code of practice to work for Virgin Care and the impact that will have on the quality of services for children and families in Lancashire. 

‘Given that the majority of expenditure goes on health workers’ wages, there must be serious worries that the way Virgin Care will maximise its profits will be by cutting the number of health visitors and school nurses.’

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