Posted by: westlancashirerecord | November 22, 2016

Not So Care-Full Virgin Care?

As Assura Medical assura_medical the company received little in the way of media coverage either positive or negative. However, with the takeover by Virgin Care and the winning of the £500 million contract to run healthcare in Surrey in 2012, the company has come to the attention of the media and some criticism. The announcement of the choice of Virgin Care as preferred bidder for the children’s services bid in Devon triggered a legal challenge by the mother of two children that use the service.

In October 2012 Channel 4’s documentary series Dispatches focused on Virgin Care’s business in a programme entitled ‘Getting Rich on the NHS’. The programme reported on Virgin Care’s clinic in Northampton, which patients claim has become over reliant on locum GPs and Virgin Care had failed in its commitment to extend opening hours.

The programme also highlighted problems in Teesside, where the company provides sexual health tests. The service repeatedly missed targets on the numbers of people screened for Chlamydia. A memo revealed staff were asked to take home testing kits to use on friends and family to help make the numbers up.

In September 2015 an inquest heard of the death in September 2013 of Madhumita Mandal of multiple organ failure and sepsis. Mrs Mandal visited the Virgin Care run urgent care centre in Croydon in agony and vomiting, according to her husband, where she was triaged by a receptionist with no medical training, as not seriously ill enough to see the A&E doctor but put on the list to see a nurse.

The senior coroner at the inquest said she would write to Croydon CCG, which buys in the Virgin Care service, with her concerns about the triage system, which gives receptionists with no medical training responsibility for deciding if patients need emergency treatment. Virgin Care are reported to have defended the use of a non-medically trained receptionist to triage patients and said that Mrs Mandal had been “correctly streamed”.

The problem with Virgin Care’s use of receptionists to triage patients had already been noted by CQC inspectors virgincare: Mrs Mandal died two months after a CQC inspection of the urgent care centre, in which the inspectors noted “We were concerned that there was a risk of a patient with a serious illness or injury being wrongly streamed and their condition deteriorating.” A&E doctors had also voiced fears about the Virgin Care centre’s triage system, the inquest heard.

In February 2016, the HSJ reported that Virgin Care had made a legal challenge over Hull CCGs plans for primary care provision in its area. Hull CCG wants to create geographical groups of practices, each operating as larger scale providers. However, the initial plan to create the groups, by inviting groups of GPs to take over practices currently run under time limited contracts, was challenged by Virgin Care.

Eight out of about 50 surgeries in Hull are run under alternative provider medical services (APMS) contracts, which are due to expire in March and three of these are run by Virgin Care. Hull CCG now has to undertake a full procurement process in four lots for the future provision of the primary medical care services currently provided through the APMS contracts. Critics note the additional cost that a full procurement process will place upon an already cash-strapped CCG. And that’s what it’s all about, a cash-strapped NHS.


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