Healthcare contract worth £104m awarded to Virgin - for second time

Lancashire County Council was embroiled in a legal challenge over the case
Lancashire County Council was embroiled in a legal challenge over the case
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A controversial £104m healthcare contract that was the subject of a High Court case has been awarded - to Virgin again.

Lancashire County Council was ordered by a High Court judge to re-evaluate its decision to award the contract for services including health visitors and school nurses to private company Virgin.

Mr Justice Stuart-Smith harshly criticised elements of the bidding process in which Virgin was chosen ahead of local NHS providers.

But after redoing the decision stage of the procurement process, the council has identified Virgin Care Services Ltd as the preferred bidder.

The decision was subject to a legal challenge by Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who had previously been providing the services.

Now the final part of the process has been re-run with a new independent panel of senior experts, who the council said found that the Virgin Care bid scored more highly than the joint bid made by the two NHS trusts.

The contract award decision is now subject to a 10 day standstill period, which is a legal process required under EU procurement law.

In the absence of any challenge, the county council then intends to enter into a contract with Virgin Care for the provision of these services.

The existing contract will continue to be run by the NHS until the end of March next year.

County Councillor Shaun Turner, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: "Virgin Care has now been selected as preferred bidder to provide a range of new public health services for children aged 0 to 19 after the conclusion of this procurement process.

"'The law requires the county council to open services such as these up to competition where they are not provided in house. In February 2017, the previous administration chose not to do the latter and instead decided to conduct the procurement process in the open market.

"This contract will ensure there is a consistent range of 0 to 19 services across the whole county, available to all, with additional support for those who most need it.

"Our aim has always been to help narrow the gap in health between different groups and communities, while integrating more closely with other children's and family services.

"We know this is an unsettling period for staff and once the standstill period has been completed they will be fully informed about the next steps."