Socialist Worker

Privatisation bonanza for billionaire Branson while NHS faces cash crisis

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2616

Richard Bransons Virgin Care is trousering billions

Richard Branson's Virgin Care is trousering billions (Pic: Jarle Naustvik/Flickr)


Convicted fraudster Richard Branson’s Virgin empire has snatched £2 billion in contracts from the NHS in the last five years.

Virgin holds around 400 contracts across the public sector from hospitals to schools and prisons. And around one third of its British subsidiaries’ turnover comes from public money, according to analysis by the Guardian newspaper.

Virgin Care won £1 billion worth of NHS contracts last year alone.

The Tories awarded Branson the contract to run over 200 services across Bath and North East Somerset for seven years in November 2016. Worth a whopping £700 million, it was the most lucrative privatisation deal in the NHS’s history.

A close second in Virgin Care’s growing portfolio is the £335 million contract to run health services in Cambridgeshire. This was handed over to Branson after outsourcing partnership UnitingCare collapsed in 2015.

The revelations come as the NHS is in the depths of a funding and staffing crisis.

The British Medical Association’s consultants’ committee chair Dr Robert Harwood said, “We firmly believe that the NHS should be publicly funded and publicly provided.

Overstretched

“At a time when the NHS is facing huge financial pressure, it is vital that taxpayers’ money is used to support overstretched NHS services, not to fund multimillion-pound private contracts.”

Branson’s profiteering shows the money is there to fund the health service.

It comes as workers at a number of NHS hospitals face the threat of being transferred to working for wholly-owned subsidiaries.These are a bridge to full-blown privatisation.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said a Labour government would “renationalise” the NHS.

And Labour politicians did back the recent successful strike against plans to set up a wholly-owned subsidiary in Wigan.

But Labour’s manifesto at last year’s general election only promised to make the NHS the “preferred provider” of services—not kick out all the privatisers.

Strikes by health workers can roll back privatisation.


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