Legal challenge over council's Virgin healthcare deal

A child getting an immunisation jab.'Photo: Posed by model/PA
A child getting an immunisation jab.'Photo: Posed by model/PA

A legal challenge has been mounted over Lancashire County Council’s decision to award a £104m child healthcare contract to a private provider.

Virgin Care beat Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust in the tendering process to run the county’s Healthy Child Programme for youngsters aged up to 19 for the next five years.

The service includes screening, immunisation and exercise promotion.

The decision attracted criticism from opposition Labour councils and Labour MPs.

Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are now involved in legal action.

A Lancashire Care Trust spokesman said: “Further to the hearing that took place on January 25, the court has ruled that the contract can’t be awarded at this point. We are working towards a trial date in April, therefore we will continue to provide the service in the interim.”

Shaun Turner, LCC cabinet member for health, said no contract had yet been signed due to the legal challenge. He added: “A winning bidder was chosen using a fair, open and transparent procurement process.”

Virgin Care said they could not currently comment on the procurement process but added: “We have invested in delivering improvements for people using free NHS services across England and have not taken a profit out of the business. We are focused on delivering high quality care and an excellent experience.”

Trade union Unite has urged County Hall to avoid out-sourcing. Unite national officer for health, Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, said: “There will be concerns over the impact it will have on the quality of services for children and families. The public mood is such that it would be entirely appropriate for the county council to reconsider the awarding of this contract in the interests of those children who receive these services.”