“Virgin awarded almost £2bn of NHS contracts in the past five years”

“Virgin has been awarded almost £2bn worth of NHS contracts over the past five years as Richard Branson’s company has quietly become one of the UK’s leading healthcare providers, Guardian analysis has found.

In one year alone, the company’s health arm, Virgin Care, won deals potentially worth £1bn to provide services around England, making it the biggest winner among private companies bidding for NHS work over the period.

The company and its subsidiaries now hold at least 400 contracts across the public sector – ranging from healthcare in prisons to school immunisation programmes and dementia care for the elderly.

This aggressive expansion into the public sector means that around a third of the turnover for Virgin’s UK companies now appear to be from government contracts. …

Sara Gorton, the head of health at the trade union Unison, said: “The company has been so keen to get a foothold in healthcare, it’s even been prepared to go to court to win contracts, moves that have cost the NHS dearly.

“While the NHS remains dangerously short of funds, taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be wasted on these dangerous experiments in privatisation.”

One former surgery manager who spoke to the Guardian said Virgin appeared to be paid more for doing less in her area, although the company said “because the contracts are generally not directly comparable, we don’t believe it to be true”.

Guardian analysis reveals the way the company that began selling records in the early 1970s has diversified in a bewildering way over recent years. …

In March 2017, it had almost 1,200 staff – a five-old increase from the year before. Over the same period, its turnover increased from £133m to £204m and its operating profit rose from £7.3m to £8m.

Though healthcare is a growing part of the group, Virgin still appears to make most of its money from transport.

Virgin UK Holdings, the UK business which holds its rail and healthcare ventures, reported revenues of £1.5bn in 2016 and paid £22m in tax.

Earlier this year, Virgin Trains had its west coast line franchise extended for another year. …

Paul Evans, the director of the campaign group NHS Support Federation, said: “Virgin Care are the biggest private sector winner to emerge out of the NHS experiment with competition and outsourcing.

“We don’t know the final shape of it, but players like Virgin and Care UK clearly see a big opportunities for business to continue to deliver clinical services for the NHS.”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/aug/05/virgin-awarded-almost-2bn-of-nhs-contracts-in-the-past-five-years