Privateer Virgin Care has successfully sued the NHS because it was not awarded a contract to provide children’s health services in Surrey.
Unite said the news was further evidence of the pernicious impact the Health and Social Care Act – which allows the privatisation of the NHS by the back door – has on the health service.
While the full award has not been disclosed, one of the six NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) sued was found liable for £328,000 – meaning the total cost to the taxpayer could be far higher.
As well as six Surrey CCGs, Richard Branson’s controversial private healthcare group sued Surrey County Council and NHS England, after it failed to win the £82m contract.
Virgin Care, which runs a number of NHS services, initiated UK High Court proceedings last year, claiming that were “serious flaws” in the bidding process.
Virgin Care, NHS Guildford and lead group Waverley CCG have all said that the settlement details are “confidential”.
However, Surrey Downs CCG mistakenly revealed the case had left them liable for £328,000 in its October public finance report, according to the Health Service Journal.
Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said, “This is another example of the nightmare Health and Social Care Act casting a shadow over our NHS.
“This infamous act opened up this cherished public service to the market as prey for the same spivs and speculators that caused the financial crisis.”
Jarrett-Thorpe said time needs to be called on the “privatisation and marketisation” of the NHS.
Spend money on mental health care call
“The millions spent defending the NHS from organisations like Virgin Care could be spent on mental health services and primary care services that have seen a sustained financial constraint despite government announcements,” he said.
“We even see several NHS Trusts forming their own companies in order to avoid paying VAT and outsourcing key health services to their own company.”
Labour said the situation was “scandalous” and called for the Department of Health to publish the details of the settlement.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said, “It’s scandalous that NHS money is being wasted on fighting off legal bids from private companies.
“Ministers need to make clear how much public money has been used in this case – at the least it seems to be hundreds of thousands of pounds. That is money that could be being used for NHS patients who are waiting longer than ever for routine services.”