Devon mother's court challenge over Virgin child care

Children's services
Image caption NHS Devon said Virgin Care would offer a stronger "joined-up service" for children and families

A mother is challenging a decision to give Richard Branson's Virgin Care a contract to run children's services in Devon.

The company was chosen by NHS Devon, Devon County Council and Plymouth and Torbay primary care trusts and is due to take over in the spring.

Lawyers for the woman will argue in the High Court that the authorities failed to properly assess the impact.

But NHS Devon denied the claim, saying a robust assessment was carried out.

Spokeswoman Rebecca Harriott said: "We firmly believe there is no case to answer and will strongly defend the action.

"The decision to work with Virgin follows an exhaustive tendering process - our aim has always been to secure the best possible service to meet the needs of children and their families."

'Track record'

The mother, whose children use the existing service, is seeking a judicial review of the decision to award the £132m three-year contract to a firm in the private sector.

Her solicitor, Adam Hundt, said: "This is a service for one of the most vulnerable groups in society and [the authorities] are going to a company with no established track record in this area."

But Russell Elliott, from Virgin Care, said the company had a proven track record, having run health centres, clinics, and minor injury units for six years, and had provided children's services in Surrey for seven months.

Under the terms of the contract, Virgin Care would run frontline services for children, including mental health, school nursing, health visits and care for the disabled.

It would take over responsibility for more than 2,000 children and the 1,100 staff currently employed by NHS Devon and the county council.

NHS Devon and the county council said appointing a single organisation to provide health and social care in the community would offer children and their families a stronger "joined-up service".

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