In November 2016, Richard Branson’s Virgin Care bought up one of the biggest chunks of our NHS yet. In an unprecedented move, it was granted control of Bath and North East Somerset Council’s (BANES) adult social care services. But the latest figures show Virgin Care has a huge challenge on its hands. Admissions for malnutrition in the area have more than doubled in the last six years.
Virgin Care is becoming a household name. But not for good reasons. Thanks to Jeremy Hunt’s drive for healthcare privatisation, Branson’s enterprise has been acquiring ‘failing’ GP practices across the country, left, right and centre.
Last June, as The Canary reported, a GP practice in Essex was taken over by Branson’s healthcare provider. The practice, once rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), was taken over after facing £400,000 cuts to its Personal Medical Services (PMS) funding.
Likewise, as part of a £700m deal, Virgin Care acquired the contract to run BANES social care services. As The Canary reported, from April 2017 Virgin will run three statutory services: adult social care, continuing healthcare, and children’s community health.
But the latest figures show that Virgin Care has a big challenge on its hands.
Bath has long been regarded as an affluent area. Despite this, the level of malnutrition admissions to its Royal United Hospital (RUH) has more than doubled in the last six years. Between 2015/16, there were 60 admissions to the RUH for malnutrition, an increase of 131% from 26 in 2009/10.
While some may argue 60 is hardly of notable concern, its increase is very telling of the hardships people are increasingly facing. Admission to a hospital is often a last resort. This suggests that even more people are suffering from poor diets and malnutrition but are just managing to scrape by.
Last year, 2,655 people were reliant on Bath’s charity-led food bank for food, water and supplies. Between 2015/16, the bank handed out 34.75 tonnes of food to vulnerable people in desperate need.
The increased reliance on food banks is becoming a nationwide trend. In November, The Trussell Trust revealed it is on course to break its 12-year record. The food bank network gave out 519,342 emergency food supplies between April and September 2016. 12,973 more than it supplied the previous year.
Likewise, other NHS trusts are experiencing a shocking increased admission rate for malnutrition. Admissions for malnutrition to hospitals in Cambridge have more than quadrupled over the last seven years. Admissions to Teesside hospitals, meanwhile, have more than tripled in the last six years.
Furthermore, a recent Department of Health report found that hospital admissions for malnutrition nationwide had increased by 44% in the last five years. In 2010/11, when the Conservative-led Coalition government came to power, the number of bed days accounted for by someone with a primary or secondary diagnosis of malnutrition was 128,361. Last year, this figure rose to 184,528.
Virgin claims “to make a real difference to people’s lives by offering services that: are better than before; provide a great experience for everyone; and save the NHS and public money”. But it would be foolish to forget that, at its heart, it is a commercial provider. Likewise, with Virgin Care’s expansion being a relatively new phenomenon, little is known about how the provider plans to run its newly acquired practices.
Among all this expansion, the NHS is facing its biggest crisis of all time. And malnutrition is becoming a very serious problem. But it’s far from the only one.
– Support the Save Our NHS campaign, and other NHS campaigns.
– Support The Canary, so we can keep bringing you the news that matters.
Featured image via Flickr/Virgin Money
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?