Health chiefs will decide this week whether to extend Virgin Care’s £54million-a-year contract for another three years.
The firm became the first private company to take over adult social care services when it was awarded the contract in Bath and North East Somerset in 2016.
It is currently responsible for two community hospitals, outpatients’ clinics, school nursing and immunisation services, plus wellbeing services and some social care services.
As joint commissioners, B&NES Council and the B&NES, Swindon and Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group will both need to agree on whether or not to extend the contract.
A report to the council’s cabinet meeting on 10th November says overall Virgin Care is a good provider and meets the needs of the population well, but waiting times in some service areas and the length of stay in community hospitals needs to improve.
It says extending the contract will limit disruption amid considerable pressure caused by Covid-19, whereas a new procurement process could destabilise the fragile recovery and would cost £965,000 and distract from a period of significant change in the NHS.
There are currently few providers with the necessary experience of delivering integrated health care and social care services that could replace Virgin Care.
The council will be able to take a longer view of how social care services are best delivered to meet the needs of the population after the next local elections in 2023.
The contract will cost the council, CCG and Better Care Fund £54.5million this year.
Virgin Care is said to be keen to secure the extension – which would see it secure £558million from the public purse over the full 10 years – and could challenge the decision if the council and CCG decide against it, the report says.
It needs to be told by the end of March if the deal is going to be extended to 2027. The option to lengthen the contract can only be taken once.
The council and CCG are recommended to extend the contract but take two services back in-house.
B&NES Council’s cabinet will consider the extension on 10th November ahead of an extraordinary BSW CCG meeting the following day.
Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter