Concerns over new £86 million NHS mental health services contractor

June 06 2019
Concerns over new £86 million NHS mental health services contractor

CAMPAIGNERS have raised concerns about a private firm that is about to take on an £86 million NHS contract.

Physiotherapy Solutions, trading as Vita Health, is set to start providing psychological therapies for people with mild-to-moderate depression and anxiety in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

But lobby group Protect Our NHS, which opposes privatisation of the health sector, has expressed concerns about the company’s ownership.

The Vita Health Group is owned by French private equity firm Archimed S.A.S (Medfund 1).

Protect Our NHS campaigner Shaun Murphy said: “The history of private equity involvement in healthcare companies is not a happy one.”

He cited Four Seasons Health Care, the country’s second largest care home operator, which went into administration after struggling to repay debts of more than £500million.

A spokesman for Vita Health Group said its private equity owner had a capital base of around £1.4 billion and is “fully supportive”. Archimed S.A.S (Medfund 1) is “happy to provide any necessary support to help mitigate risk” to the region’s NHS commissioners, he added.

The Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said it is making final checks of Vita Health before formally handing over the 10-year contract to improve access to psychological therapies next month.

There isn’t yet a signed contract,” chief executive Julia Ross told Mr Murphy at a CCG board meeting on June 4.

We’re going through a process of due diligence with this provider, including how we look at the holding companies and the parent companies, and so on.

We have already done quite an extensive amount of due diligence and we are doing further due diligence.”

Assuming the contract is signed on July 15 as planned, Vita Health will start providing the redesigned psychological therapy service from September 1.

The company was appointed at the conclusion of what the CCG described as a “comprehensive procurement process”.

Health commissioners were forced to defend their choice as it had no record of operating in the West of England.

They said the company had a good record of providing mental and physical health services in other parts of the UK, and was the best provider from among those who bid for the contract.

Two of its subcontractors, the Bluebell Care Trust and Windmill Hill City Farm, already operate in the area.

Director of commissioning Lisa Manson told the meeting that the CCG ensured that all of its providers had the right local knowledge to correctly “signpost” users to the right local organisations.

Vita Health Group Limited was incorporated in May 2018.

According to its website, the group comprises three UK healthcare providers – RehabWorks, Workplace Wellness, and Crystal Palace Physio Group – which joined forces in August 2017.

Vita Health’s spokesman said both RehabWorks and Workplace Wellness have a long history of providing accredited psychological therapies in the UK.

They provide steps 1-4 psychological therapies, delivering interventions in accordance with NICE guidance and cover a population of over 2.5 million people,” he said.

Picture: Protect Our NHS campaigners Shaun Murphy and Barbara Smith outside the Vassall Centre in Fishponds, where the CCG meeting was held.

By Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporting Service