Virgin Care, part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, continues its expansion into sexual healthcare with a new contract to run community health services in parts of Surrey. They recently won contracts in Sussex and Milton Keynes. The £500 million deal with NHS Surrey includes providing sexual health services. Virgin Care also has contracts in Teeside for GUM (genito-urinary medicine) services.
The Virgin Care contracts have caused concern in some quarters. Under the new Health and Social Care Bill, sexual health will be the responsibility of local authorities while HIV treatment and care will be the responsibility of is a special commissioning sector answering to the NHS Commissioning Board. “A real issue is when sexual health services are put out to tender without proper regard to the positive impact on HIV-related care,” says Professor Jane Anderson, HIV consultant at Homerton University Hospital in London, and Chair of The British HIV Association (BHIVA).
“Sexual health services and HIV services often share the same locations and staff; because providers cohabit in the same location, these contracts could lead to a fragmentation of services, which should be integrated. For example HIV health advisers will operate under different management than the rest of the HIV team. I’m worried about the potential consequences,” says Anderson.
In February GUM services at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesborough moved into the community to the North Ormesby Health Village and the Redcar Primary Care Hospital. GUM services at University Hospital of Hartlepool will move to a location in the town centre. This followed the contract for sexual health services across Teeside being awarded to Assura Stockton LLP, a partner with Virgin.
Sexual health and contraceptive services in Milton Keynes were contracted out in April to AML Care Ltd, a Virgin Care company. It is understood that BHIVA is seeking a meeting with Virgin executives to outline their concerns.