Health bosses have confirmed the switch to Virgin Care is to go ahead after a six-month delay which has cost the NHS thousands of pounds in legal fees.
Richard Branson’s private medical company was awarded the £128.4m contract to provide community care to Sittingbourne and Sheppey, Gravesend and Dartford in January. It should have taken over in April. But the High Court blocked the move in February after a complaint from existing provider Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT).
The legal team at KCHFT asked NHS Swale Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and its sister NHS Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG to hand over information to “reassure” it that the contract had been “properly awarded.” The action put the transfer of services on hold.
But the suspension was lifted after a two-day hearing last week allowing the CCGs to go ahead and give the contract to Virgin. However, KCHFT says it will continue to ask the courts to rule if the award procedure was safe, fair and robust.
KCHFT’s new chief executive Paul Bentley, who replaces acting chief executive Lesley Strong, said today (Tuesday): “While we are disappointed the suspension has been lifted, we respect the court’s decision.
“It is only right that decisions to award multi-million pound NHS contracts should be subject to the highest scrutiny. As an NHS organisation, we take the responsibility of spending public money extremely seriously. We have one of the lowest running costs of any NHS community trust in the country and challenging this decision was not something we took lightly. We would like to thank our talented and dedicated teams in north Kent who work so hard to provide the very best care for patients. As to legal fees, that is for the CCG to comment on. Suffice to say, I abhor any waste of public money.”