The new Pre-Birth to 19 Health, Wellbeing and family Support Service across Essex will combine a range of existing services, including the Healthy Child Programme, healthy Schools, the Family nurse partnership and children’s centres.
Virgin Care will focus on delivering the clinical side of the service such as health visiting
Children’s centres will be re-named as family hubs and there will be 12 – one per district.
Councilor Dick Madden, Essex County Council’s cabinet member for adults and children, said, ‘I am pleased to have awarded the contract to Virgin Care and look forward to working with them as we launch this exciting new service.
‘This flexible and innovative new way of working is about providing services without walls and ensuring we are reaching those families who need support the most.
‘Families will still have easy access to local services, but staff will also be able to reach priority groups who do not currently use children’s centres, whether that is in a local clinic, play area or their own front room.’
According to Barnardo’s website, the charity currently runs 18 children’s centres in Essex.
In West Essex the service has been jointly commissioned with NHS West Clinical Commissioning Group and will also include children’s community nursing, paediatrics, therapies and specialist services.
Deborah Fielding, chief officer, NHS West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said, ‘This is great news for local children and families, by working across the NHS and council we will be able to provide not just a more integrated service, but we will have joint ownership for managing these services together.
‘It has been a meticulous process to get to the stage where we can provisionally announce the successful bidder and because families have been integral to our procurement and evaluation process, we feel confident and proud that we are able to commission a service for the long term that is absolutely grounded in quality outcomes for local families.’
Harwich county councilor Ivan Henderson, Labour group leader, has said he is concerned that Virgin Care has not run children’s services on this scale before.
Virgin Care’s website says that it runs a number of NHS services, including GP practices, walk-in services, physiotherapy, and children’s services across parts of Devon, Surrey and Wiltshire.
A spokesperson for Virgin Care said, ‘We are really pleased to have been selected to deliver more joined up care for young people and their families across Essex. We look forward to working with our great partners, including Barnardo’s, and alongside the many outstanding local professionals to deliver a high quality service that has been shaped by the people who use it.’
Jonathan Whalley, regional director for Barnardo’s South East and Anglia Region, said, ‘We are really delighted to be continuing our relationship with Essex County Council and to work with Virgin Care to deliver these innovative services across Essex over the next seven years.
‘We believe in children and are committed to serving the local community, providing early support and interventions to children and families pre-birth to 19, ensuring the best possible service to those who need it the most.’
The charity went on to say that it believes working together with Virgin Care they will be able to support more children and their families, particularly in identifying issues earlier and preventing disadvantage and abuse.