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Bath and North East Somerset awards £700m integrated care contract to Virgin

A £700m contract to provide community health and adult social care services in Bath and North East Somerset has been formally approved for Virgin Care.

The contract was endorsed by the board of Bath and North East Somerset CCG on 10 November, and then by the Conservative-majority Bath and North East Somerset Council later the same day.

Services will be transferred to Virgin Care from 1 April 2017, with the contract due to last seven years.

Cllr Vic Pritchard, the cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: “The council has voted to follow the recommendation of a wide range of service users, carers and subject matter experts who have dedicated hundreds of hours to scrutinising the bids and really understand how services need to change.

“This decision marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the integration of health and care services in Bath and North East Somerset. Local people can look forward to a more joined up and personalised service in the future with the focus firmly on prevention and supporting people to maintain their independence.”

The council said the decision had been made in consultation with service users, members of the public and health and care professionals.

Dr Ian Orpen, clinical chair of the CCG, added that he was pleased that the area can now start the process of transferring services.

“Following extensive consultation with local people and a very rigorous procurement process, the CCG Board is assured that Virgin Care is the right organisation to deliver the personalised and preventative care that local people have asked for,” he explained.

However, Cllr Tim Ball, a member of the council’s health and wellbeing select committee, said opposition groups within the council had opposed the decision and believed it “should have had further scrutiny”.

“It is a large step towards the privatisation of the NHS,” he noted. “It is happening in other quarters and it has a creeping affect, gradually spreading.”

Cllr Ball added that he was concerned that Virgin has “no track record” of running social care.

Lewis Carson, the Unison organiser for the area, said: “We’re fighting to oppose the contract. We have concerns about what this means for staff conditions and service delivery. From past experience we know staff terms and conditions can be targeted for savings.”

A spokesman for Virgin Care noted that the company was very pleased to have been chosen by the council and CCG to deliver more joined-up care for people across Bath and north-east Somerset.

They added: “We have a strong track record over the last decade of overseeing integration and improvement of NHS services across England and we’re looking forward to working with the many outstanding professionals, and a range of great partners, to provide and oversee high quality, easy-to-navigate services which are shaped by the people who use them.”

(Image c. Ian Redding)

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