Care Work

In the last 20 years, care work and care homes have been privatised while council budgets have been slashed. The vast majority of both home care and residential care in England is now provided by private companies. (It used to be the opposite, with 95% of care at home being provided by councils in 1993.) 

Two-thirds of adult social care workers say the quality of adult care has dropped because of large-scale outsourcing since the early 1990s. 

We've listed some of the larger care providers in the UK, but there are thousands of smaller providers running individual homes. These stories make for grim reading. 

Read more about privatisation of care work, and what we can do about it here.


Care UK provides healthcare and residential care. The company’s services include treatment centres, GP practices, walk-in centres, out-of-hours GP support and diagnostics facilities. Care UK also provides healthcare at a number of prisons, and runs 110 care homes across the UK.

Care UK bought Harmoni in November 2012, which provides out of hours GP care, 111 telephone services, offender healthcare, urgent care and IT services. 

In early 2017, Care UK reported that it is the largest provider of health care services in prisons and secure facilities. It also provides over 60 NHS primary care services, including GP and walk-in services, 11 NHS out of hours services, and 13 NHS '111' services.

Care UK is ultimately owned by private equity firm Bridgepoint Capital. 


Virgin is a private provider of services. They own contracts in both the NHS under Virgin Care and in our Railways under Virgin Rail Group.

Virgin Care owns 24 GP-led provider companies that provide NHS services through networks of GP surgeries; and community-based NHS services. Virgin Rail Group operates Virgin Trains and part owns a couple of rail franchises.

Virgin Trains West Coast is owned by Virgin Rail Group (51%) and Stagecoach Group (49%). The franchise is due for renewal in 2019.

Until May 2018, the group also owned Virgin Trains East Coast which was a joint venture owned by Stagecoach (90%) and Virgin Rail Group (10%) through a holding company called InterCity Railways Ltd.

Following a failure to meet their contracted profits, and government offering them a bailout, We Own It launched a campaign to have the service brought back into public ownership. At the end of May, it was announced that the service would be run by the Department of Transport through the 'Operator of last resort'.

Richard Branson's VirginCare has bid for many contracts to provide NHS services, but when they lost a bid to an in-house provider in Surrey in 2017, they sued the NHS for millions.

Cygnet Health Care is a commercial provider of mental health services which operates 21 centres with more than 1,000 beds across the UK.

Concerns have been raised about both patient safety and their near monopoly on adult mental health services in parts of the UK. 

Cygnet runs the UK operations of US healthcare giant Universal Health Services.


Carewatch provides assisted support and homecare services to elderly people, people with learning disabilities and people with physical disabilities. It is the largest independent provider of these services in the UK

It is fully owned by Lyceum Capital, a large investment firm, who acquired it from Nestor Healthcare in October 2008. 


Since 2012 Four Seasons has been owned by UK-based private equity firm Terra Firma, and investment fund which specialises in taking over failing businesses in complex and highly regulated industries. A 2015 CRESC report found that Four Seasons is organised in a group of 185 companies in fifteen tiers through multiple jurisdictions including several different tax havens, facilitating tax avoidance and value extraction.

Four Seasons is a health and social care provider that runs over 300 nursing, residential and dementia care homes in the UK, and is one of the largest providers in the country. After taking over many homes from failed provider Southern Cross, Four Seasons has been dogged by liquidity problems, large debts and falling profits, which has meant it has sold many of its homes in the last couple of years. Various iterations of Four Seasons healthcare are registered with the Care Quality Commission, many of them with incredibly poor records of quality of care.


HC-One was formed in 2011 following the collapse of the UK's then-largest nursing home operator, Southern Cross. HC-One's latest set of accounts say it is ultimately owned by FC Skyfall LP,  a limited partnership registered and incorporated in the Cayman Islands, and backed by private equity funds Formation Capital, Safanad Limited and Cavendish Court.

HC-One is a British healthcare management company,  and is the UK's third largest care home operator, specialising in residential, nursing and dementia care. It runs over 200 care homes in the UK, and has been at the centre of multiple abuse scandals. It also operates under the name Meridian Healthcare. Over 20% of its care homes are currently classed as Requires Improvement or Inadequate by the Care Quality Commission.


Sevacare provides in-home care services to elderly people. It is owned by its founder, Ravi Bains, and is supported by funding from HSBC. It has been embroiled in a wage dispute with its staff, after it emerged that staff are not paid for their travel time during a working day, meaning that their overall rate of pay is much lower than the minimum wage.

Sevacare has recently rebranded itself as Mayfair Homecare, in an attempt to avoid the negative publicity around their wage dispute.

Have you seen a story of privatisation failing? Email us the link at and we'll add it to the list!

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