COMMERCIAL: Kent clinical commissioning groups have won a legal bid to lift the suspension of a contract they awarded to Virgin Care.

Swale CCG and Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG awarded a £127m community services contract to the private firm in January.

However, the move was challenged by incumbent provider Kent Community Health Foundation Trust. It argued the assessment process was flawed and that transferring the work to Virgin Care would cause legal, IT and human resources problems which would affect patient care.

The High Court in February suspended the award of the contract until the trust’s legal case had been made.

The CCGs applied to challenge this earlier this month, and on Friday the court lifted the suspension.

A spokeswoman for the CCGs said: “On 10 May 2016, lawyers representing Dartford Gravesham and Swanley and Swale Clinical Commissioning Groups, submitted an application to the High Court seeking to lift the suspension of the contract award to Virgin Care.

“At the hearing that took place on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 May, the court lifted the suspension, which now enables the contract with Virgin Care to be signed.

“In the forthcoming weeks the CCG will work with the new provider to reinstate the mobilisation plan and ensure the safe handover of services from KCHFT.”

It is not known how much the three NHS organisation have spent on legal fees.

Kent Community Health Foundation Trust chief executive Paul Bentley said: “Our patients remain our highest priority. We will work with the north Kent CCGs and Virgin Care to make sure there is a safe and smooth transition for patients and staff.”

The trust was represented by Bevan Brittan and will have to pay the CCGs’ costs, which have not yet been calculated.

A spokeswoman for Kent Community Health said the organisation had not yet decided whether to continue with its initial legal challenge to the contract award.