Written by Darren Tamplin-Compton, Senior Solicitor and Team Leader within Fletcher’s Medical Negligence Team
Last year I commented on the news that an Essex-based GP practice, taken over by Virgin Care, was placed in special measures after going from ‘Outstanding’ to ‘Inadequate’ ratings in under 2 years. The Care Quality Commission rated the Sutherland Lodge GP practice in Chelmsford ‘Inadequate’ (the lowest available grading) only around 20 months after awarding an outstanding rating. The practice was taken over by the private provider, Virgin Care, in July 2016.
Now (10.12.2019) Nick Bostock of GP Online reports that GP practices in Essex run by the private provider Virgin Care have lost more than 1,600 patients in the past year:
“Of four practices run by the provider across Mid Essex CCG and Southend CCG, just one saw its list size increase in the year to November 2019 – despite rising numbers of patients registered with GPs across the area as a whole.
One practice, the requires improvement-rated Church Lane surgery in Braintree, lost 1,135 patients over the 12-month period – 9.1% of its patient list.
Sutherland Lodge has also seen a significant reduction in its patient list over the past year – losing 493 patients, equivalent to 4.5% of its patient list.”
Head of primary care for Virgin Care, Chris Pearson, said:
“We are committed to continually improving the surgeries we’re trusted to run by the NHS and the results speak for themselves: nine of the 11 we have across the UK are now listed as “good” or “outstanding”, and 93% of our patients say they would recommend our services. Our lists across Essex are open, and we’re regularly welcoming back patients to see how we’ve improved.”
However, the number of patients voting with their feet, is telling. Again, one would have hoped for much better from the healthcare arm of the global giant, Virgin, which on its website claimed:
“Sir Richard [Branson] is passionate about health and care and… decided to create Virgin Care because he believes that health and care services can be delivered in a more innovative way that focuses not only on the important outcomes, but also every person’s experience of care.”
Whilst Virgin asserts that since entering partnerships with the NHS and local authorities, in 2010, it has invested £60 million (yet never generated an overall profit) Sir Richard’s commitment to investment needs to be matched by a quality of grassroots service to ensure that further patients (and the income attached to them) do not leave for more traditional GP practices, based on the partnership model.