Posted by: westlancashirerecord | April 24, 2018

The Scandal Of Privatised Healthcare In West Lancashire

In a scathing attack on how the privatisation of NHS services affects us all and, in particular, her own constituents, Rosie Cooper MP  slated West Lancashire CCG in a debate in Parliament.

First, she said “it lacks transparency; secondly, it is removed from adequate accountability; and, thirdly, it prioritises shareholder gains over patient care. It only takes a glance at the situation over the past two years in my constituency, where privatisation is not creeping but galloping in, to witness numerous examples of those three points”.

If you really want to be appalled by what is happening, she revealed that “Fewer than two weeks ago, it was announced that Totally plc , a private provider of out-of-hospital services, had been awarded a four-year contract with Virgin Care for 18 GP out-of-hours services in West Lancashire. It then transpired that Vocare , a subsidiary of Totally, was going to run the services on its behalf. In case Members got lost in that little trip, I will outline the process in full: NHS England devolves commissioning to NHS West Lancashire CCG, which contracts to Virgin Care, which sub-contracts to Totally, which hands its contract over to its subsidiary, Vocare. You really could not make it up, could you?

“I have to ask the Minister: does that constant sub-contracting between private companies not further dampen our abilities to hold private providers to account? Where does the increasingly complex and inward-looking operation end? Perhaps I already know the answer, because Totally’s chief executive, Wendy Lawrence, commented in a press release on the recent contract award: “also ensuring we create value for our shareholders by securing important strategic contracts such as this one”.

“Does that explain why, in 2017, constituents of mine who received urgent care from Virgin were informed that wounds could be dressed only once and my constituents would then need to go to the local chemist and purchase further dressings? Will the Minister explain how that is healthcare free at the point of delivery? In 2017, the operating hours of the Ormskirk urgent care centre were 8 am to 8 pm. It used to be open from 8 am to 10 pm. The initial contract was to allow the centre to be open to enable my constituents to go to the urgent care centre when GPs surgeries were closed and to ease the burden on A&E. The opening hours do not meet that need, and it transpired later last year that Virgin does not always have a GP on site. When there was a computer problem at the walk-in centre, my constituents were simply told to go home or go to A&E”.

In response Stephen Barclay  Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) said “I recognise, as Rosie Cooper highlighted, that there needs to be transparency in respect of outsourced contracts. When I was a member of the Public Accounts Committee, a phrase we often referred to was “following the taxpayer’s pound”. That stood then and it stands now. I am very happy to work with the hon. Lady on how we can ensure that we are able to follow the taxpayer’s pound and address areas of variance. Variance applies in the NHS family, but it also applies in the private sector. I am very happy to work with her, just as I am looking forward to a visit, on a cross-party basis, to look at some of the specific issues at the Liverpool Community trust that she correctly identified and brought to the House”.

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