Bath and North East Somerset Liberal Democrats welcome the B&NES Cabinet’s decision to bring social care services back ‘in house’ from 2024, ending the Council’s contract with a private provider of health and care services.
The contract has been in place since 2017, when the Council and local CCG commissioned Virgin Care to provide a range of health, social care and public health services.
In 2021, the Council and CCG agreed to extend the contract term for a further three years. Immediately following this decision, the commissioners were informed that the provider had been sold to a private equity group and rebranded as HCRG Care Group.
This brought the decision regarding the extension into question and led the commissioners to initiate a due diligence process and obtain legal advice.
At a special meeting on Thursday 26 May, B&NES Cabinet members unanimously agreed to allow the contract to end in 2024. Cabinet members paid tribute to the dedication of health and care staff, particularly during the pandemic, and thanked them for their work. Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group met separately and endorsed the same option in a parallel decision-making process.
A Liberal Democrat Party spokesperson said:
“We welcome this significant decision to bring health, social care and public health services back under direct management by the Council and CCG and we applaud the Cabinet’s clear prioritisation of service users, staff and safeguarding public funds.
“Cabinet’s deliberations were clearly based on a careful assessment of the risks. However, this decision also speaks to the wider question of whether statutory services, upon which vulnerable people in our communities rely, should be delivered by for-profit companies.
“Back in 2017, many residents and health campaigners opposed the then Conservative administration’s decision to award this contract to a private provider, instead of the alternative – a non-profit, community interest company. Now a Liberal Democrat administration is bringing these essential services back under public sector control.”
Speaking at the Cabinet meeting, Councillor Alison Born, the Cabinet member responsible for Adult Services, said:
“It is essential that local community health and care services are of high quality, that they meet the needs of our local communities, and that public money is safeguarded for the provision of front-line services. Disruption caused by changes to provider services is very difficult for both staff and service users and does not support effective service delivery. We are incredibly grateful to our community health and care staff who have worked throughout the pandemic in the most challenging of circumstances.
“I believe that the certainty provided by allowing the contract to end, with the opportunity to bring our social care staff in-house, will provide greater security and will support the development of services equipped to address the evolving needs of our residents.”
Deputy Council Leader and Cabinet member for Economic Development and Resources, Councillor Richard Samuel, called on Council officers to immediately to establish a transition team and begin financial and service preparations to bring services in house.
Councillor Samuel said:
“I have considered the options in this report very carefully and although a ten-year contract may have appeared to be advantageous at the time it was let, that no longer appears a prudent decision. The ever-widening gap between service cost and contract income does inevitably mean that the necessity for any provider to make further future economies will inevitably tend to make services to residents less resilient.”
Bath’s Liberal Democrat MP, Wera Hobhouse, commented:
“I welcome the Council’s decision to prioritise service users, staff and to safeguard public funds. It is a brave and bold move made in the best interests of residents. The decision will result in greater security and allow services to develop and adapt to serve residents. I’m very pleased to see the Liberal Democrats putting people first by acting to secure well-run public services.”
Watch the Cabinet meeting recording on YouTube: