Virgin Care have, as you may know, won a £650 million contract to run NHS community services in the county of Surrey for the next 5 years. They have, as I mentioned yesterday, been short listed for an award for the work they carry out in Surrey, even though their contract has barely commenced. Now, in a much more shocking development a Freedom of Information request reveals three fairly catastrophic developments.
1. Virgin Care is not obliged to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and thus a cloak of secrecy will hang over its activities in Surrey (and elsewhere).
2. NHS Whistle-blower Protection legislation will not, and does not, apply to NHS staff transferred into the warm embrace of Virgin Care.
3. Virgin Care Surrey, unlike the NHS boards, is not required to hold their meetings in public. Public accountability will be zero.
All of these facts were admitted by NHS Surrey themselves in response to a FOI query that you can read (here).
Patients' safety is now placed undeniably at risk if staff are to be too scared to speak out if malpractice occurs, especially if we researchers cannot uncover the data ourselves through Freedom of Information requests. The public will not get the chance to question Virgin Care in public meetings because they are not obliged to hold public sessions. For a government that told us they would be transparent, this is the opposite of transparency, it is more akin to totalitarian secrecy.