Billionaire convicted fraudster Richard Branson is set to take over NHS community health services in Surrey in a £500 million five year deal.
Some 2,500 NHS staff will be transferred to Branson’s Virgin Care brand. The company will run eight community hospitals, the provision of community nurses and health visitors, breast cancer screenings, sexual health clinics, specialist dental work and physiotherapy.
It is the biggest example of NHS privatisation so far. Virgin Care is also on the shortlist to take over NHS services in Devon, including mental health services for children and adolescents.
The new Health and Social Care Act opens up the vast majority of NHS services for tender. NHS commissioners are not obliged to take on private providers, but £20 billion of cuts are grinding public providers down.
For example Leicester University hospital is trying to make £30 million of cuts, nearly half from its wage bill—putting as many as 400 jobs at risk.
And NHS bosses are looking at cuts of around a third to the nursing budgets at many London hospitals.
For some, such as the Newham University Hospital Trust in east London and the Whittington Trust in north London, the cuts are of as much as 50 percent.
Nationally there are already 3,500 fewer nurses in the NHS than this time last year.
A whopping 70 percent of NHS staff say there are not enough workers at their trust for them to be able to do their jobs properly.
And as many as 44 percent of nurses say they are looking to leave the profession, mainly citing the stress of overwork.