Lancashire county council urgently needs to reconsider its decision to transfer NHS community services to Virgin Care, given that the outsourcing of public services ‘had fallen into disrepute’ in the wake of Carillion’s collapse.
Unite, the country’s largest union, said a council rethink was needed on awarding the £104 million, five-year contract to Virgin Care to run Lancashire’s 0-19 healthy child programme, given that Carillion had numerous NHS contracts before its collapse earlier this month.
According to the NHS Support Federation, Virgin Care has been the most successful company winning over more than £1 billion worth of NHS contracts, mainly in community healthcare.
Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health sector, said there needed to be greater transparency about Virgin Care’s finances and these concerns were enough to justify the Tory-controlled council looking again at the contract awarded just before Christmas.
Lancashire Care Trust, which currently runs the contract ending in March, lost out in the bidding process.
The union understands there is now a period to allow unsuccessful bidders to challenge the process.
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “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.
“Virgin Care has been like a cash-hungry octopus with its tentacles grabbing more than £1 billion worth of NHS contracts. We think there needs to be greater transparency surrounding Virgin Care’s finances.
“Virgin Care’s holding company is registered in the British Virgin Islands. Suppliers of public services should pay UK tax and not be based in tax havens.
“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. Unite will strongly oppose any such moves.”
Notes to editors:
The NHS Support Federation has reported that in 2016/17 for-profit companies won £3.1 billion of new contracts. Virgin Care has been the most successful company winning over more than £1 billion worth of NHS contracts, mainly in community healthcare.
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065 Email: email@example.com
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.