COMMUNITY child health services will be fully privatised in Wiltshire in April — in a deal worth almost £13million.

Until now, most of the services, which include health visiting, children’s community nursing, and speech and language therapy, have been provided by the NHS, including Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust.

But now private firm Virgin Care has been awarded a five-year, £12.8million deal.

The council said no services would be cut as a result of the changes and there were no plans to lay-off any staff.

And it said any savings would be invested back into the services.

A spokesman said: "By having one provider delivering all of the community child health services throughout the county means that children, their parents and their carers will have access to consistent and equitable levels of services and support regardless of where they live in Wiltshire."

But GP Dr Helena McKeown raised concerns about the gradual privatisation of the NHS.

She said: "It's a bit like removing blocks from a Jenga tower.

"We don't know at what point he whole NHS is going to fall down."

Dr McKeown said privatising community child health services in particular was not necessarily a bad thing, as long as the new provider communicated with parents and schools effectively.

Labour leader Ricky Rogers said: "The public have nothing to gain by this privatisation. If we look at the history over the the last 20 years, every time we have had privatisation of any public service it has resulted in a poorer service for the public."

The decision has been taken jointly by the GP-led group that controls the county's health budget (Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group), Wiltshire Council and NHS England.

Debra Elliott, director of commissioning for NHS England said: "A single community child health service will help children and young people in Wiltshire receive the best possible start in life."

Jayne Carroll, regional director at Virgin Care, said: "We are really excited to be working alongside a great team to provide a truly Wiltshire focussed service that has been shaped by the people who use it and is focussed on delivering outstanding outcomes for children and young people in Wiltshire."

Similar changes sparked protests in Bristol in August.