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High Court rules Virgin Care can start take over of £126million health service contract in north Kent

PUBLISHED: 15:56 01 June 2016 | UPDATED: 15:36 02 June 2016

Gravesham community hospital

Gravesham community hospital

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Its take over had been put on hold after a complaint from the trust which previously ran the services

Virgin Care’s takeover of health services in north Kent has resumed after a High Court ruling announced Richard Branson’s health company can take over health services in Sittingbourne, Sheppey, Dartford and Gravesend.

The big-money contract was awarded to Virgin Care after a year-long procurement process was carried out by local clinical commissioning groups.

The seven-year contract is worth more than £18million a year.

Chiefs at the former contract holders, Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT) hit back at the decision after they had scored higher than Virgin Care for quality, but not cost in the procurement process.

The trust issued a complaint in March.

The complaint meant Virgin Care’s takeover of services, which included community nursing, community hospital services, intermediate care, community neuro rehabilitation, speech and language therapy and contenience services, was postponed.

But the suspension was lifted after a hearing last week.

A spokeswoman from NHS Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG and NHS Swale CCG said: “On May 10, lawyers representing Dartford Gravesham and Swanley and Swale Clinical Commissioning Groups, submitted an application to the High Court seeking to lift the suspension of the contract award to Virgin Care.

“At the hearing on May 26 and May 27, the court lifted the suspension which now enables the contract with Virgin Care to be signed.

“In the forthcoming weeks the CCG will work with the new provider to reinstate the mobilisation plan and ensure the safe handover of services from KCHFT”

Two months on from its original start date, Virgin Care can now start to adopt the services.

But KCHFT are still waiting for a response to their initial complaint that caused the delay.

Chief executive Paul Bentley said he was ‘disappointed’ that the suspension had been lifted.

He said: “It is only right that decisions to award multi-million pound NHS contracts should be subject to the highest scrutiny.

“Challenging this decision was not something we took lightly. We asked the north Kent CCGs for some more information about the procurement to confirm the contract was fairly awarded. This triggered an automatic suspension to the contract being signed.

“We are still waiting for information from the CCGs.

“While we are disappointed the automatic suspension has been lifted, we respect the court’s decision. The case to hear whether the procurement was carried out correctly is yet to be heard and we hope that it will be not be necessary when the information is provided.”

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