NHS app for GP video appointments signs up thousands of Londoners (Evening Standard: 10 January 2018)

Thousands of Londoners have signed up for a controversial NHS smartphone service that allows video consultations with a GP around the clock.

The GP at Hand app attracted almost 7,000 Londoners in its first month, despite them having to switch registration from their existing doctor to receive the free advice.

Its backers say it has helped ease winter pressures on A&Es and GP surgeries by enabling those with flu to receive advice at home — while avoiding spreading the virus....read more


Richard Branson's Virgin healthcare firm scoops £1bn of NHS contracts (The Guardian: 29 December 2017)

Richard Branson’s Virgin Care won a record £1bn of NHS contracts last year, as £3.1bn of health services were privatised despite a government pledge to reduce the proportion of care provided by private companies.

Overall, private firms scooped 267 – almost 70% – of the 386 clinical contracts that were put out to tender in England during 2016-17, according to a new report. They included the seven highest value contracts, worth £2.43bn between them, and 13 of the 20 most lucrative tenders.

The £3.1bn in contracts, a big rise on the previous year’s £2.4bn, prompted concern that profit-driven companies are increasingly involved in delivering care, in a development that undermines repeated assurances by the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, that they play only a marginal role....read more


Lancashire County Council award £104m NHS contract to Virgin Care (Lancashire Post: 11 December 2017)

A County Hall decision to award a £104m healthcare contract to the private sector instead of the NHS has sparked a storm of protest in Lancashire. Richard Branson’s Virgin Care company has beaten Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust in the tendering process to run the county’s 0-19 Healthy Child Programme for the next five years.

Today the furious Labour leader on the county council branded the decision “privatisation by the back door.” Coun Azhar Ali, who is going to London today talking to MPs about the issue, stormed: “This is a massive contract and it has major ramifications for healthcare in Lancashire. “It is a terrible blow and could have an impact on the viability of the Lancashire Care Trust.” The programme, which covers services such as school nurses and health visitors for children and young people, is worth up to £20.8m a year.....read more

Cygnet named in new care model despite serious failings at hospital (HSJ: 18 October 2017)

NHS England named Cygnet Health Care as a partner in a new care model for young people’s mental health 10 days after inspectors found serious failings at its hospital in Woking that led to the temporary closure of its adolescents’ psychiatric intensive care unit.

The Care Quality Commission rated the psychiatric intensive care services at the hospital inadequate. The inspection in June found young people had repeatedly self-harmed while under constant observation; there was a high level of incidents and use of restraint, including prone restraint; and staff did not have the skills and experience to manage the young people in their care. In eight reported cases, male staff had not intervened when a patient was self-harming until a female nurse arrived....read more


Biggest ever NHS tender launched as £6bn contract put on market (The HSJ, 7 April 2017)

Manchester health leaders have kicked off the search for providers of “out of hospital” health and care services across the city under a contract worth nearly £6bn – the largest ever NHS services tender.

A tender document, published by NHS Shared Business Services, sets out for the first time the contract value and other details of the ambitious plan to set up a “local care organisation” to provide all non-acute services – including social care – across the city.

The LCO will hold a single 10 year contract to provide services for a population of around 600,000 across the city – but not the entire Greater Manchester devolution region. The contract will be let by Manchester Health and Care Commissioning, a partnership between the city council and a newly formed single clinical commissioning group.

The notice, which calls for expressions of interest by the end of April, said: “Commissioners seek responses from interested providers who wish to deliver… a local care organisation for the population of Manchester with the aim of bringing together a range of health, social care and public health services to be delivered in the community.”

“The LCO is envisaged [to have] an emphasis upon: local population health and prevention of ill health; connecting to community assets and building upon people’s strengths and self-management skills; and targeted care support people’s needs particularly as needs change and become more complex. The estimated total contract value for the 10 year contract term is £5.9bn.”....Read more


Circle contract win means trust 'risks going in special measures' (HSJ: 14 March 2017)

Lewisham and Greenwich Trust stands to lose up to £6.6m of revenue over five years unless Circle Health, the winner of a musculoskeletal contract for Greenwich, contracts it to deliver community based services and “other orthopaedic activity”, the PwC report said.

The report also highlighted possible risks to the safety of care if Circle subcontracts MSK services currently provided by Lewisham and Greenwich to another provider.

The London trust already has a forecast deficit of £34.6m for 2016-17, which puts the trust’s finances £14.4m behind plan, the PwC study said.

The loss of £1.6m of income in the first year of the contract could “add additional financial pressures to the trust”, and lead to “potential intervention, for example being placed into the financial special measure regime”, the report said....read more


Private NHS contractor set to take over county’s out of hours service (Stroud News and Journal: 2 February 2017)

Out of Hours services for patients in Gloucestershire are set to be taken over by a private healthcare company for the first time.

Care UK is poised to take over provision of the primary care service from the publicly funded South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust.

Due to tightening budgets the NHS Trust announced last autumn it would be forced to terminate its contract early to focus efforts on the provision of 999/emergency care.

The “interim” deal with Care UK was made after a competitive tender and evaluation process by the Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

The privately contractor, which is Britain’s biggest provider of out-of-hours services, will take over on a short-term 10 month contract from June 1, 2017.

Health chiefs in the county say the deal will help ensure high quality and safety for patients during the interim and have promised a seamless transition.

But NHS campaigners in Stroud have condemned the move as a damning indictment of the current trend of privatisation in local NHS services...read more


NHS spends millions on private companies that block GP referrals, investigation finds (The Independent: 4 January 2017)

The NHS is spending millions on private companies that stop GPs referring patients to hospitals, an investigation has revealed.

Controversial "referral management centres" are supposed to cut costs and improve the quality of GP referrals – but three quarters of NHS bodies that told the British Medical Journal (BMJ) they used the schemes could not say whether they had saved money overall.

The centres can block or redirect GP referrals for procedures such as hip and knee replacements, treatment for allergies and cataract surgery to manage outpatient activity at local hospitals.

At least £57m has been paid out to them since April 2013, according to the 69 per cent of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) using the schemes which gave details of their operating costs.

Doctors expressed concern that paying third parties to screen GP referrals – around a third of which are run by private companies – was of questionable effectiveness.

“[CCGs] are leaping at these schemes without any clear evidence of benefit and that they’re just hopeful that it might reduce their costs,” Dr Richard Vautrey told the journal....read more


Outcry as Virgin Care gets £250m contract following claim children in Essex will be ‘guinea pigs’ for outsourcing (Essex Gazette: 20 December 2016)

Opposition councillors have criticised plans to treat children as “guinea pigs” by awarding a £250 million family support service contract to Virgin Care.

Essex County Council awarded the seven-year contract to Virgin Care, in partnership with Barnardo’s, to run family services across the county.

The contract, which starts in April, includes health, wellbeing and family support services from pre-birth to the age of 19 and will see the combination of existing services like the healthy child programme, healthy schools, family nurse partnership and children’s centres from April 2017....read more


Staffordshire £1.2bn cancer contract given green light (BBC News: 26 November 2016)

A £1.2bn plan to outsource cancer and end-of-life care in Staffordshire has been given the go-ahead by NHS England.

The project, which has attracted considerable opposition, was put on hold in January after a similar contract in Cambridge was scrapped due to financial concerns.

A 10-year contract in Staffordshire is expected to be up and running by April.

Bidders are believed to include private companies Virgin Healthcare and Interserve.

The deal includes a £690m contract to run cancer care across four Staffordshire clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) - Stafford and Surrounds, Cannock Chase, Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire.

The successful bidder will be asked to co-ordinate cancer care throughout the county - from diagnosis through to treatment and end-of-life care.

The CCGs have previously said the aim was to streamline services and "provide the best cancer and end-of-life care for patients".

However, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South Rob Flello, described it as an unpopular and dangerous project that could see a private provider take over NHS care.....read more


Virgin wins contracts worth £65m (HSJ: 23 November 2016)

Virgin Care has been awarded two five year contracts to provide community and urgent care services for a clinical commissioning group in Lancashire.

West Lancashire CCG launched a tender process for the services after the Care Quality Commission raised concerns about Southport and Ormskirk Hospitals Trust, the incumbent provider.

The community services contracts are worth £45m over five years

Private firm Optum, Lancashire Care Foundation Trust and Bridgewater Community Healthcare FT were also shortlisted for further discussions about the community services contract, which was previously advertised as being worth £45m over five years.

Optum and Virgin Care were the only bidders shortlisted for the urgent care services contract, including GP out of hours provision and a walk-in centre in Skelmersdale, for a contract worth around £20m over five years.

Virgin Care will start delivering the services in April....read more


Government quietly privatises the NHS's in-house agency staff provider (The Independent: 19 November 2016)

The Government is to privatise the NHS’s in-house, publicly-owned provider of agency staff, ministers have announced.

NHS Professionals, the health service’s main staffing agency, provides 90,000 health workers to around a quarter of NHS trusts, covering two million shifts a year.

In a written statement issued on Thursday as most MPs headed back to their constituencies, the Government announced it would sell off a majority stake in the orgnaisation to the private sector with the aim of “creating a profitable business model”.

Labour says the sell-off amounts to further privatisation of a key part of the health service, while the Government claims the private sector will help provide new investment.

It is understood that the Government could invest public funds in the organisation directly through the Treasury but has chosen to use the private sector instead.

“Following market analysis and a thorough appraisal of a business case, the Department’s preferred option is to create a joint venture partnership to bring in the necessary investment and expertise to the business and give the Company greater operational autonomy,” health minister Philip Dunne said in the statement....read more


Landmark deal for private firm to run social work service approved (Community Care: 11 November 2016)

Virgin Care will run statutory adult social work services in Bath and North East Somerset from April 2017, in deal believed to be first of its type.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Care will run core adult social work services in Bath and North East Somerset after a £700m contract to reshape community health and social care services was approved last night.

The Conservative-controlled council voted 35-22 in favour of the deal. Earlier in the day the local NHS clinical commissioning group’s board voted unanimously in favour.

From April 2017, Virgin will run more than 200 services under the deal including three statutory services – adult social care, continuing healthcare and children’s community health. The deal marks the first time a privately-owned profit-making firm will deliver statutory adult social work functions.

Unlike in children’s services, there are no laws preventing councils from delegating statutory adult social work functions to profit-making providers.

But previous outsourcing deals by councils have only seen social work run by local authority-owned trading companies or not-for-profit social enterprises spun out of social services departments.....read more


Hospital in £135million of debt hands £600MILLION contract to Serco (Mirror: 26 September 2016)

 A hospital trust which is £135million in debt has sparked fury by handing a whopping £600million contract to Serco.

Debt-ridden Barts Health NHS Trust is already in Financial Special Measures because of its alarming cash crisis.

Barts - which cares for 2.5million people in London - has the largest debt in the history of the NHS .

But it has triggered fresh concerns about its financial management by giving outsourcing giant Serco a 10-year contract to run its hospital facilities.

It is the biggest deal the company has won since 2014...read more


Virgin Care preferred bidder for £69m community services contract (HSJ: 19 August 2016)

The seven year contract – with an option to extend for a further three years – is being jointly commissioned by Bath and North East Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group and Bath and North East Somerset Council.

It covers over 200 services currently delivered by more than 60 organisations including: health visiting; speech and language therapy; diabetes nurses; district nurses; the falls prevention team; the independent living service; physiotherapy and reablement services; and palliative care nurses.

Virgin Care was chosen ahead of a consortium led by the social enterprise Sirona Care and Health, which included Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust, Royal United Hospitals Bath Foundation Trust, Dorothy House Hospice Care, and the GP organisation Bath and North East Somerset Enhanced Medical Services.

The rationale for the contract is to integrate the disparate services. Virgin Care will act as a “prime provider”, directly delivering and coordinating services, but with the option to subcontract to other providers where appropriate....read more


Virgin Care bags major £700m health and care co-ordination deal (National Health Executive: 19 August 2016)

Virgin Care has been chosen as the preferred bidder to co-ordinate over 200 health and care services in Bath and North East Somerset as part of a major £700m contract.

According to NHS Bath and North East Somerset CCG, the deal is intended to strengthen health and care co-ordination in the region after several complaints from people who claim to “have difficulty finding their way” around the system.

The contract is worth £69.2m a year and will run for seven years, with the option to extend for a further three years, which the CCG and the local council say is in line with their current spending on community services....read more


How much is the government really privatising the NHS? (The Guardian: 15 August 2016)

The myriad different bodies that make up theNHS in England and their opaqueness, especially in terms of contracts to provide services, makes mapping the true extent of the privatisation of public healthcare difficult.

The available evidence bears out Owen Smith’s claim that NHS privatisation is increasing, but it is less of the “explosion” that the Labour leadership hopeful warns about and more of a gradual but inexorable, rise in the proportion of the NHS budget going to firms such as Virgin Care, Care UK and Bupa. It is also noteworthy that the private sector has been making ever bigger inroads into several key areas of NHS care, notably general practice, community services and mental health care.

Department of Health (DH) figures show that the amount of its funding that has gone to “independent sector providers” more than doubled from £4.1bn in 2009-10, Labour’s last year in power, to £8.7bn in 2015-16.

Slow-release privatisation has also seen the percentage of the DH budget finding its way into private hands rising from 4% in 2009-10 to 8% in the last financial year.

A few privatisation contracts involve huge sums. Several GP-led NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Staffordshire caused controversy in 2014-15 when they sought to hand 10-year contracts for cancer and end-of-life care worth £1.2bn to a private provider, though those plans have been held up after NHS England became involved...read more


16 CCGs launch integrated NHS 111 and urgent care services (HSJ: 3 August 2016)

Sixteen West Midlands clinical commissioning groups are set to mobilise a new integrated NHS 111, GP out of hours and urgent care service across a population of 4.6 million after awarding a set of contracts worth up to £172m.

In March 2016, Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, on behalf of the 16 CCGs, launched a procurement process for an integrated NHS 111 and out of hours GP services contract. Tender documents revealed the deal was worth between £86.4m and £172.1m, from July 2016 to July 2022. The CCGs have refused reveal the new combined contract value.

Care UK has been chosen to deliver NHS 111 and “clinical hub” services. Four providers have won new contracts for out of hours services in Birmingham South Central, Herefordshire, Sandwell and West Birmingham, and Rugby. The remaining areas have adapted existing out of hours contracts.

The deal is made up of two main elements: a single NHS 111 service for the entire patch, plus individual out of hours contracts for each CCG. An overarching alliance contract links the 111 service to out of hours, with the intention of making the services more integrated than they are at present.

The first element is intended to provide a single point of access through 111 services bringing together urgent care, GP out of hours services, ambulance services and social care. The alliance agreement between providers will allow for closer working between 111, out of hours and urgent care providers....read more


Virgin set to take over outstanding GP practice forced to close by £400,000 cuts (GP Online: 20 June 2016)

A GP practice in Essex rated outstanding by the CQC will be taken over next month by the private provider Virgin Care after £400,000 cuts to PMS funding forced existing partners to hand in their notice.

NHS England confirmed the private provider would take control of the Sutherland Lodge Surgery, in Chelmsford, from July.

GP leaders fear the takeover by a commercial provider could be the first of many, as hundreds of PMS practices face huge pressure from sharp reductions in contract funding.

The Essex practice is among the 35% of GP surgeries in England that operate under PMS contracts, which have faced cuts worth more than £200m under a national review process carried out over the past two years....read more


CCGs win legal battle over Virgin community contract (HSJ: 1 June 2016)

COMMERCIAL: Kent clinical commissioning groups have won a legal bid to lift the suspension of a contract they awarded to Virgin Care.

Swale CCG and Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG awarded a £127m community services contract to the private firm in January.

However, the move was challenged by incumbent provider Kent Community Health Foundation Trust. It argued the assessment process was flawed and that transferring the work to Virgin Care would cause legal, IT and human resources problems which would affect patient care.

The High Court in February suspended the award of the contract until the trust’s legal case had been made.

The CCGs applied to challenge this earlier this month, and on Friday the court lifted the suspension....read more


London CCGs award urgent primary care contract (HSJ: 31 May 2016)

Six south west London clinical commissioning groups have awarded an integrated urgent care contract - combining NHS 111 and out of hours services across several boroughs - to South London Doctors Urgent Care (SLDUC).

The six CCGs involved are Croydon, Kingston, Merton, Richmond, Sutton and Wandsworth. All six have procured NHS 111 services from the provider but only Kingston, Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth CCGs have procured an out of hours GP service.

SLDUC will run services for three years from October 2016, with the option to extend for a further two years. HSJ understands NHS 111 services will be run from one clinical hub in Norbiton, while a second hub will provide GP out of hours care across Kingston, Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth.

South London Doctors Urgent Care is a partnership between Vocare and South East London Doctors Co-operative (SELDOC). Vocare is an established provider of NHS 111 services nationally, while SELDOC manages the existing GP OOH contract for Sutton CCG, as well as contracts across south east London....read more


Virgin and Optum shortlisted for contracts worth £65m (HSJ: 7 March 2016)

Two private companies have been shortlisted in a procurement process for community and urgent care services in Lancashire.

West Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group launched the tender after the Care Quality Commission raised concerns about services run by Southport and Ormskirk Hospitals Trust.

Southport and Ormskirk Hospitals has run the community services since 2010

The trust has not been shortlisted and said this was a “very disappointing decision”.

The CCG has invited Optum, Virgin Care, Lancashire Care Foundation Trust and Bridgewater Community Healthcare for further discussions about the community services contract, worth £45m over five years.

Optum and Virgin Care have also been shortlisted in the bidding process for some urgent care services, including GP out of hours provision and a walk-in centre in Skelmersdale. This deal will be worth £20m over five years...read more

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