Local newspaper the Bristol Post has alleged that VirginCare in the region asked staff not to report their safety concerns to health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (the CQC):
According to the Post, Virgin Care emailed staff during a period of serious IT troubles that were causing cancelled appointments, missing letters and reports, asking them not to send ‘statutory notifications’ to the CQC:
Virgin Care completely replaced all the IT infrastructure used by services after it took over from Sirona
As such, at the moment I would ask that we hold off from submitting statutory notifications.
As the name suggests, health staff have a legal obligation to report safety concerns to the CQC.
Virgin Care told staff it was itself in communication with the CQC, but staff reported “widespread distrust” about what the company would be disclosing to the watchdog and said that repeated queries to management to find out had received no response.
The Bath Chronicle sent eight questions to Virgin Care about the situation – and received just one answer.
We asked Virgin Care for comment on the Bristol Post allegations and received an almost identical response as that sent to the Bath Chronicle. A company spokesperson said:
As was previously reported in the local newspaper, during the local transition of the IT systems there was no interruption to services for patients and, as soon as issues arose, we quickly implemented contingency plans which ensured services continued to operate safely.
Colleagues were supported to deliver safe and effective care while our local and senior teams met regularly to monitor progress and brief our commissioners and the CQC on the issues and what was being done to resolve them; we have shared comprehensive details with the CQC and they have not raised any concerns.
Unlike NHS organisations, private health providers are not subject to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, so statutory reports and whistleblowers may be the only way serious and even life-threatening problems come to light.
The FOI exemption is just one of the areas of serious concern to campaigners for the full re-nationalisation of the NHS – a Labour Party commitment.
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