Monday briefing: Virgin awarded nearly £2bn in NHS contracts | World news
Top story: Aggressive expansion as NHS strapped for cashGood morning – this is Alison Rourke with the top stories to start the week.
Virgin has won almost £2bn worth of NHS contracts over the past five years, making it one of the UK’s leading healthcare providers, Guardian analysis has found. Along with its subsidiaries, the business now holds at least 400 contracts across the public sector, ranging from healthcare in prisons to school immunisation programmes and dementia care for the elderly. In 2016-17, the company’s health arm, Virgin Care, won deals potentially worth £1bn to provide services around England, making it the biggest winner among private companies bidding for NHS work over the period. This aggressive expansion into the public sector means that around a third of the turnover for Virgin’s UK companies now appear to be from government contracts. Sara Gorton, the head of health at the trade union Unison, warned that while the NHS remained dangerously short of funds, “taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be wasted on these dangerous experiments in privatisation”.
‘It’s an epidemic’ – Farmers are resorting to medieval methods to combat rural crime, which has risen to its highest level in four years, an increase being blamed on organised criminal gangs and policing cuts. Earth banks and dry ditches are just two methods being used to keep criminals in 4 x 4 vehicles out. Offences against farmers and other rural businesses cost an estimated £44.5m last year, an increase of 13.4% from 2016, according to insurer NFU (National Farmers Union) Mutual. The biggest increase was in in Wales, up 41%, followed by the Midlands, up 32%, and the south-east, up 30%. Only Scotland and north-east England showed falls compared with 2016. One farmer of 30 years in Worcestershire told the Guardian it’s the worst he’s ever known it.
Indonesia earthquake – At least 91 people are known to have died on the Indonesian islands of Lombok and Bali after a 7.0 magnitude quake hit on Sunday night. The vast majority died on Lombok, with two killed on its neighbour, Bali. Rescue efforts were hampered by power shortages, broken bridges and a lack of phone reception in some areas. Residents fled their homes for higher ground as the quake triggered a tsunami warning that was later cancelled. Authorities believe all the victims of the quake are Indonesian.
No ‘no-deal’ Brexit – Downing Street says the PM is confident of securing a Brexit deal with Brussels, despite Liam Fox’s assertion that the UK looks set to crash out without an agreement. Fox rated the chances of a no-deal Brexit as “60-40” but Whitehall sources say they think there’s only a very small chance of a the government failing to reach a deal. One cabinet source told the Guardian: “We’ve been telling business for two years that no deal isn’t going to happen, and we still believe that it’s a very small chance, but it’s not a 0% chance so government has got to prepare.”
Teen girls’ self-harm crisis – Social media and a rise in school work has been blamed for the doubling of hospital admissions of teenage girls for self-harm. According to NHS figures, in the two decades since 1997, the number of girls under 18 admitted rose from 7,327 to 13,463. The figure for boys remained broadly the same. The number of girls being treated for attempted substance overdose rose more than tenfold to 2,736. Research published last October found that self-harm reported to GPs among teenage girls under the age of 17 in the UK increased by 68% over a period of three years. The study also found that self-harm among young people aged 10 to 19 was three times more common among girls than boys, and those who self-harmed were at much greater risk of suicide than those who did not.
Pricey pints – More than half of adults in the UK are struggling to afford to drink in pubs, according to the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra). The average price of a pint of beer in London is now £5.20 and regularly tops £6. Across the country, the average is about £3.50, leading to many drinkers staying at home with cans of beer bought in supermarkets instead, according to Camra, which warned that more than a dozen pubs a week were closing as a result. The most expensive places for a pint outside London are Oxford (£4.57), Edinburgh and Bristol (£4.35), and Brighton (£4.24). The cheapest is Carlisle at £2.35.
Lunchtime read: Gabrielle rises – ‘I’m coming back as a white male’At the height of her fame, the Brit-award winner Gabrielle was one of the wealthiest women in the UK and one of the country’s most recognisable celebrities. The south London working-class hero who had succeeded against the odds co-wrote her own soulful hits and resonated reality with so many issues most of us could relate to. She sang of hope and disappointment and defiance. But then a gruesome murder story that involved the father of her elder child beheading his stepfather derailed her life. Traumatised and devastated, every story written on the case seemed to reference her, even though she was cleared of any involvement. Tarred by association, she found herself at a crossroads.
After the trial Gabrielle disappeared, then returned in 2000 with the aptly titled No 1 hit Rise. Now she is back her first album in 11 years with new collaborations and new vigour. She talks to Simon Hattenstone about her journey back to the spotlight, her inspirational mother, who brought her and her three brothers up single-handedly while holding down two jobs and studying... And how #MeToo has shown that “it doesn’t matter how much money you earn, if you’re a woman you can still be oppressed”.
SportAfter Manchester City swept aside Chelsea to win this year’s Community Shield thanks to a Sergio Agüero brace at Wembley, the Chelsea manager, Maurizio Sarri, suggested he is open to allowing Thibaut Courtois to leave the club this week if the goalkeeper asks to leave. Manchester United’s final friendly before the start of the Premier League season ended in a 1-0 defeat by Bayern Munich, as José Mourinho suggested a “difficult season” awaits the club. Dylan Hartley faces a race against time to be fit for the start of the season following five months out with concussion after it emerged he did not take a full part in England’s pre-season training camp over the weekend.
Dina Asher-Smith is targeting three gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the European Athletics Championships in Berlin this week as she spearheads a British team hoping to surpass their best haul of 23 medals set in Zurich four years ago.
And nine years after Catriona Matthew lifted the British Open trophy at Royal Lytham & St Annes, Georgia Hall delivered another home victory, to become only the third player from her home nation to win the major.
BusinessMore than six million people are worried that their jobs could be replaced by robots, according to new research by the Fabian Society and trade unions. It also found that 37% of workers thought their job would get worse in the next decade and that unions and government were not doing enough to prepare people for the impact.
Asian stocks are in positive territory today helped by Wall Street’s strong showing on Friday. The FTSE 100 looks like opening up 0.2%, according to futures trading, while the pound is buying $1.299 and €1.123.
The papersThe Guardian leads on Virgin begin awarded almost £2bn in NHS contracts over the past five years. Brexit is the splash on several of the papers: the Telegraph says “No-deal Brexit will ‘break EU’s own laws’”, the FT has “Hammond fears French drive to stall City’s EU exit after Brexit”, while the Express has: “Brexit no deal worse for the EU”. The Times leads with “Self-harming by teenage girls doubles in 20 years”. The Daily Mail’s front page leads on a new text messaging system to help doctors identify cases of sepsis: “Blueprint to end the the sepsis scandal”. The Mirror splashes with “Life-savers” and prime ministerial praise for the paper’s organ donation fight for 10-year-old Max Johnson. And the Sun reports in what it calls a murder twist: “Midwife suspect in ex’s family”.
For more news: www.theguardian.com