Preferred provider status for Virgin Care leaves questions to be answered

Health staff have little faith in Virgin Care’s ability to deliver a public service in Bath & North East Somerset despite the private corporation’s newly awarded status as “preferred provider”.

UNISON is pledging to fight every step of the way to ensure no aspect of Virgin Care’s bid goes unscrutinised in the remaining three months of the commissioning process. The union remains unconvinced that the private company is the best long-term option for community health services, and is campaigning for a strict contract to ensure cooperation and public welfare are prioritised.

Virgin Care, part of the profit-making Virgin Family, does not recognise trade unions and is accountable to shareholders. Since being established in 2010, Virgin Care has made a loss, meaning it pays zero tax in the UK.

UNISON Regional Secretary Joanne Kaye said:

“Our union’s first concern is for a high quality health service that treats patients and staff well. Using their virtually unlimited funds, Virgin Care can put on a good show for commissioners and beat overstretched NHS and community bidders. The real question is where their long-term interests lie – is it with developing a world-class health service, or is it in scoping out opportunities for profit?

“Any contract that is eventually given to Virgin Care must include clauses to keep them honest. It’s good to see the Council insisting on a ‘reinvestment of profits’ clause – but given that Virgin Care has made a loss across the UK since its establishment, this will have little real meaning. A strong voice for community health workers will be essential to protecting standards and jobs, which is why UNISON is determined to see trade union recognition written into the commissioning agreement.

“The real worry is that Virgin is using its UK health operations as a trial to gain knowledge of the system, and awareness of where they can make a profit. Once they’ve got what they want having put minimal investment in, they’ll up sticks and leave the community without a proper health service. NHS and local community providers might not have such flashy bidding operations, but we know they’re in for the good of the community for years to come.”


Find out more about the Community Health Contract in B&NES