The process by which a £132 million health outsourcing contract was awarded to Virgin Care has been found to be illegal.
In a ruling this week, a judge found that Devon Council and NHS Devon acted illegally during the process of awarding a children's health and social care services contract. The contract involves the outsourcing of Integrated Children's Services (ICS), which manages the needs of about 2,400 children with disabilities in Devon.
When Virgin Care was chosen in July this year, the mother of a child who will be affected by the change decided to take the matter to court. A hearing took place during 8/9 October.
The judge found that NHS Devon and Devon County Council had not carried out an impact assessment, to determine the effect of the proposed changes on disabled children, before awarding the contract. Such an assessment is required by law under the Equality Act 2012.
Adam Hundt, who acted for the plaintiff, said in a statement:
"Although my client is disappointed that the court was not willing to stop the process, she is pleased that this judgment makes it clear that outsourcing decisions of this kind will engage the public sector equality duty, and that the impact of outsourcing to the private sector cannot be dismissed as having no impact on service users, and has to be carefully assessed at a sufficiently early stage of the process in order to be lawful"
The council and NHS said in a joint statement:
"Although disappointed that the judge found that we did not initially fully discharge our public sector equality duty, we are pleased that he recognises that we have now addressed this. We will continue to focus on this duty during the remainder of the process."
Despite the finding, the transfer of staff will go ahead by March 2013, with 1100 staff moving to the private company.