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Why it’s wrong to say we sued the NHS because we lost a contract in Surrey

Much has been written and said about the procurement process which the NHS in Surrey ran back in 2016 to find the best organisation to deliver vital children’s services until 2022. A lot of what has been written is misleading or misinformed, and all of it has lost the key point: a procurement process is meant to be about picking the right provider – a principle we agree with.

Since 2006 we’ve bid for hundreds of contracts, and although we’ve years of experience and a strong track record of innovating and delivering positive improvements we also recognise that while you win some, you lose some – and we’ve lost more bids than we’ve won.
Whenever we don’t win, we ask for feedback – to find out what we could’ve done better, and what worked well.

When we asked those questions in Surrey, we became seriously concerned there may have been flaws in the process and asked the commissioners to look again at how things had been done to make sure they had picked the right provider.

This isn’t unusual in the NHS at all. Over the last two years, seven NHS Trusts (all having lost the contract they were bidding for) have done exactly the same as we did – raising concerns with commissioners that the way the new provider had been picked might have gone wrong.

Our bid was based on five years’ experience of running the services, making improvements which would make a real difference for families and taking on up to 20% additional demand each year without any additional funding from the NHS.

The commissioners refused to discuss our concerns with us and signed a contract with their new provider. Although our ideal outcome was that the process was redone properly, and everyone had a fair opportunity to win, signing the contract meant the CCG had turned this into a claim which could only be settled with the payment of damages.

In other words, it was the NHS commissioners who made this dispute about money.

As you’ll know from Sir Richard’s previous blog about Virgin Care and our role in supporting the NHS, the work we do has to date never made a profit. In fact, Virgin Group and Sir Richard Branson have invested more than £60m of additional funding into the business and have pledged that any profit made in the future (over and above the original investment) will be re-invested into the NHS.

And the same goes for the money we received as a result of the commissioners’ decision to pay us damages rather than to re-run the process.  That money has been invested into delivering the services we’re commissioned to by the NHS – to pay the salaries of doctors, nurses, other health professionals and colleagues delivering healthcare services. Nothing has been paid out to Virgin Group or Sir Richard.

Over the last three years, over and above the funding we’ve had from the NHS, Virgin Group have invested significantly in our partnerships with the NHS, including:

  • £5m in rolling out mobile working systems, which free our teams from their desks and gives them 30% more time to spend with the people who rely on our services
  • £10m in introducing a new procurement system which takes advantage of our national scale to cut the price we pay for common supplies, meaning we can save the NHS money and deliver more frontline services
  • Over £1m in Care co-ordination services which are making it easier for people to ask for help, reducing unnecessary hospital admissions and improving outcomes by focusing on prevention
  • £4m in new purpose-designed buildings and spaces to bring colleagues physically closer together, improve services for local people by bringing them within county boundaries and creating comfortable, relaxing and clean spaces for our colleagues and service users
  • £300,000 in seed funding for frontline colleagues’ projects to make a real difference to patients’ lives including projects which have helped patients get out of hospital more quickly, help people who have had a stroke to regain their speech and many more

And through those investments we’ve delivered improvements which have made a real difference to people’s lives. Over the past year, we’ve helped combat social isolation with the innovative Child and Family Wellbeing Service in Essex we’re delivering in partnership with Essex County Council and Barnardo’s, we’ve delivered easier access to services in North Kent which the local MP described as “good work… helping people access services more efficiently,” and we’re among the first to offer a cost-free route into registered nursing with our Nursing Degree Apprenticeship.

Virgin Care
Virgin Care
Virgin Care
Virgin Care

Jacqui is at gateway point now and preparing for the End Point Assessment of her Level 3 Senior Healthcare Worker Apprenticeship. She said, “From the first day my whole team have been supportive and encouraging. They want me to be the best I can be”.

Virgin Care
Virgin Care

Kim is currently halfway through her second year of the Level 5 Healthcare Assistant Practitioner apprenticeship. She said, “I would recommend this apprenticeship as a good opportunity to develop new skills and confidence.”

Virgin Care
Virgin Care

For this year’s National Apprenticeship week Sarah talks us through the challenges that learners have faced this year, and the benefits of apprenticeships for both the learners and their organisations.

Virgin Care
Virgin Care

Lead Nurse Amanda Pulford gives us an insight to what it’s like working in a prison.