NHS Detectives investigate Virgin Care crime scene in Leeds

Conducting a crime scene investigation outside the Leeds Virgin store on Saturday 1st April, NHS Detectives appealed to passers-by for information about the attempted murder of the NHS.

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Witnesses came forward with accounts of deaths caused by A&E closures, services not open and  reduced treatments

As the NHS Detectives sealed off the entrance to the Leeds Virgin store, people out doing their shopping were aghast to learn that Virgin have already taken over £1bn worth of NHS contracts and are now suing the NHS because one of their bids lost out for a big contract.

Professor Allyson Pollock, a Public Health professor at Newcastle University, told 999 Call for the NHS she was shocked by Virgin’s announcement:

“This extreme action by Virgin is another example of private business riding roughshod over what should be a public service catering for our public health. When profit becomes the motive patient care and public wellbeing go out the window.”

Virgin Care has two arms to its business: primary care services, including GP services and walk-in centres; and community-based NHS and social care services.

These sectors are set to expand as Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships run down hospital services in favour of Care Closer to Home – which campaigners have dubbed Death Closer to Home, since there is no evidence that so-called Care Closer to Home will provide the required quality of care or be capable of being delivered for less money than hospital services – which it is required to do.

With its primary care and community health and social care contracts, it seems that Virgin Care will be part of the Accountable Care Organisations or Systems that the Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships are setting up to replace the current NHS and social care commissioner/ provider structure.

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Source: Slide 9, West Cheshire Accountable Care Organisation (ACO) Clinical Commissioning Group Membership Update February 2017

If so, will this place Virgin Care – and other private companies – like a privatised Trojan Horse right in the centre of the new NHS and social care architecture?

ck999 is currently investigating this issue.

Rich, politically well connected and litigious from the start

Virgin Care has been mopping up NHS contracts since 2010, when it acquired a majority stake in Assura Medical, taking over the company’s so-called GP companies (GP Co’s). In March 2012 when Virgin Care took over 100% ownership of Assura Medical and told the GPs in the GPCos to give up their stakes in the partnership.

What Branson was really buying was not a few GPCos, but an in with Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported in 2011 that one in seven board members of the first wave of Clinical Commissioning Groups had a link to a private health care company. More than 60% of those with private links were associated with Assura Medical (now VirginCare). Most were members of GPCos.

In 2012, Virgin Care won a £500m contract to provide NHS services in Surrey, greased by Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt. At the Sutton Consortium in Surrey (the forerunner of the Clinical Commissioning Group), 19 out of 25 board members were linked to Assura Medical. The Sutton Consortium  said it would be

“developing our governance arrangements over the coming months to ensure we continue to be transparent and accountable.”

Failed marmalade salesman steps in

Despite this claim, in 2012 they allowed failed marmalade salesman Jeremy Hunt MP to personally intervene to speed up what was one of the biggest deals to date between the NHS and a private healthcare company, none other than Assura Medical, majority-owned by Virgin Care.

Days after the 2012 Health and Social Care Bill received royal assent,  Hunt wrote to the head of Surrey’s NHS Primary Care Trust for assurance that the deal with Assura Medical would go through quickly. Shortly afterwards,  Assura Medical and Surrey NHS trust signed a £500m deal that handed over Surrey’s NHS community healthcare services to Virgin Care for the next five years.

It seems that it is the failure to win part of the new contract for Surrey’s NHS community healthcare services that has triggered Virgin Care Services Ltd’s latest legal proceedings in the High Court against NHS England, Surrey County Council and the county’s six clinical commissioning groups, after losing out on a 3 year £82 million children’s community services contract, which was awarded to Surrey Healthy Children and Families Services Limited Liability Partnership.

Litigious from the start

In September 2011, while still trading as Assura, Virgin complained to the Cooperation and Competition Panel for NHS Services about the award of a contract for a new orthopaedics and musculoskeletal service to York Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, rather than to them. They lost that complaint, but this didn’t stop them from others.

In February 2016, legal action by Virgin Care forced Hull Clinical Commissioning Group to run a full primary care tender for its planned large-scale GP practice groups (which are key to delivering the new Care Closer to Home schemes).

STPs = Switch to Private

The white-suited forensics team – from Calderdale and Kirklees, County Durham, Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and the Wirral – brought information from their areas that the Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships – they’re not just Plans these days – are to set up a USA-style, two-tier health service.  This is the STPs’ aim – not the ‘improvements’ and ‘efficiency savings’ they’re being sold as.

The privatisation chariot careers on. In Bath & North East Somerset, last autumn Virgin Care got a seven year, £700m community health and care services contract from Bath Council – the largest deal the company has ever won from a single authority and the first time that a for-profit company will be in charge of out-of-hospital services.

NHS Detective Chrissie Parker said:

“If we don’t stop these Plans, health care will be mostly private and paid for by private health insurance – for those who can afford it. And the NHS will be like US medicare – a minimal backstop for people who can’t get private health insurance.

Already Leeds Teaching Hospitals Cancer Centre has a “partnership” with an American-owned private health company, to provide private cancer care in its hospital. And the West Yorkshire & Harrogate Diabetic Eye Service is provided by a private company. Increasingly commissioning is privatised too”.

Sustainability and Transformation Plans are final murder weapon for the NHS. We have to disarm this weapon now before it batters the NHS to death. Otherwise, we’ll be faced with an unsafe substandard health care system where people will unnecessarily die from treatable and preventable health conditions.”

The NHS Detectives joined  thousands of people from Yorkshire and beyond who brought Leeds city centre to a standstill as they highlighted the secretive Sustainability & Transformation Plans (STPs), on the March for the NHS.

The solution? Simple as pie and just as good

The NHS Detectives are clear there is a solution. Supported by some leading academics and MPs they are calling for :

  • an end to the so-called Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships
  • the restoration of a comprehensive, universal NHS
  • a publicly run NHS that is free at the point of clinical need
  • an NHS that is free of privatisation and marketisation
  • with sufficient government funding for good quality health and social care
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