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Virgin given seat on ICS Board

The concerns of campaigners that the proposals in the NHS White Paper to give statutory powers to “Integrated Care Systems” would lead to private companies sitting on ICS Boards have been proved justified.

Virgin Care’s local managing director Julia Clarke is already listed as a member of the Partnership Board, the unitary Board which currently runs the ICS covering Bristol and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire (BSW).

But a look at the Board Papers for a meeting on May 28 reveals that the Virgin boss is not only occupying a seat, but actively intervening to protect the company’s interests. Minutes of the March meeting reported a discussion on the extent to which private sector “partners” would be required to be financially transparent towards the other providers within the ICS “for purposes of planning the independent/private sector’s NHS related or NHS commissioned work.” They noted Virgin’s reluctance to share any information with the public:

“Virgin Care were prepared to consider greater transparency where the contract with BaNES and BSW was concerned, but had reservations about sharing information in public.” (page 6)

In response to this the NHS “partners” tamely rolled over, agreeing to action by Chief Financial Officers to “further discuss how the ‘open book’ approach could be applied to private / independent providers while protecting those providers’ corporate and commercial interests” – in other words how to ensure ‘open books’ were not opened at all, and ICS contracts remain tightly guarded secrets withheld from the local public.

Full story in The Lowdown, 29 May 2021

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