Revealed: Taskforce to tackle NHS backlog is stuffed with private health CEOs

Original article republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Lobbyists for private health corporations were among those tasked with shaping proposals for NHS recovery plan

Adam Bychawski 19 January 2023, 3.31pm

Sunak met with the CEOs of several UK private health corporations in Number 10 in December.
| No 10 Downing Street

Rishi Sunak hosted a meeting with seven bosses from the UK’s biggest private health companies to discuss how to tackle the NHS backlog, openDemocracy can reveal.

Campaigners have raised concerns that the close involvement of private healthcare corporations in the government’s response to the NHS crisis will benefit shareholders at the expense of public investment.

The government announced the creation of the Elective Recovery Taskforce in December to provide advice on how to “turbocharge NHS recovery from the pandemic, reduce waiting times for patients and eliminate waits for routine care of over a year by 2025”.

At the time, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) refused to give openDemocracy details of the group’s members, or say who had attended its launch at Number 10 led by the PM and health secretary Steve Barclay in December.

A guestlist for the event, obtained by openDemocracy through a Freedom of Information request, reveals that half a dozen CEOs from private health firms were in attendance. 

Guests included the chief execs of the UK’s two largest private hospital operators: Paolo Pieri, the chief exec of Circle Health Group, and Justin Ash, who heads up Spire Healthcare. Also present was Jim Easton, the chief executive of Practice Plus Group, the NHS’s top private healthcare provider.

They were joined by David Hare, the chief executive of Independent Healthcare Provider Network, a lobby group that represents for-profit and not-for-profit private health organisations including Bupa and HCA, one of the biggest healthcare facility companies in the US.

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Revealed: Conservatives took more than £800,000 from private health firms

Private health tycoons have wined and dined senior ministers while cashing in on NHS contracts

The private healthcare executives, which also included CEOs from Horder Healthcare, Newmedica, InHealth and Medefer, outnumbered the five NHS England directors invited to the event.

DHSC said it could not provide openDemocracy with minutes from the meeting because none were taken, and refused to share any papers handed out to attendees.

Separately, the government quietly published a list of members of the Elective Recovery Taskforce on Monday. The 16-person group includes DHSC ministers, six NHS bosses, and Hare.

Other members include Bill Morgan, a private healthcare lobbyist whose past clients included Virgin Care, who was appointed a Number 10 adviser in November, and Paul Manning, an NHS consultant surgeon who is also chief medical officer for Circle Healthcare.

The government said the role of the task force would be to “shape proposals for how the healthcare system can make use of all resources at its disposal, further tackling the backlog caused by the Covid-19 pandemic”. It will conclude its work in March.

Last week, the prime minister said he had signed up to an NHS GP after the Guardian reported that he had registered with a private clinic in west London that charges £250 for a consultation.

The British Medical Association warned last year that the government’s NHS recovery plan would significantly increase the outsourcing of services to private providers and that it “threatens the clinical and financial viability and sustainability of the NHS”.

Tony O’Sullivan, a retired consultant paediatrician and co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public, told openDemocracy: “The head parasites are at the table to maximise future extraction of NHS funds.”

He added: “This is an important disclosure extracted from the government proving the direction of travel – to continue disinvesting in the NHS and increase its enforced dependence on private health care.

“The private sector was bailed out during Covid, has a lucrative four-year £10bn deal ongoing and is also in a position to earn massive profits from patients forced to go privately to avoid NHS queues of 7.2 million.”

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Original article republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Continue ReadingRevealed: Taskforce to tackle NHS backlog is stuffed with private health CEOs

Flying shame: the scandalous rise of private jets

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jan/26/flying-shame-the-scandalous-rise-of-private-jets

It was a Labour spokesperson who said the prime minister was behaving “like an A-list celeb”, after Rishi Sunak made his third trip by private jet in 10 days. Last week, he flew from London to Blackpool in a 14-seat RAF jet – a 230-mile journey that would have taken about three hours by train. The week before, he did the same to Leeds, which he could have done in two and a half hours by train, but which wouldn’t have looked nearly so glamorous – to go by the ludicrous photograph of him looking important and being saluted as he boarded the aircraft.

Private planes are up to 14 times more polluting, per passenger, than commercial planes and 50 times more polluting than trains, according to a report by Transport & Environment, a European clean transport campaign organisation. “It goes against the fact that the government has committed to net zero by 2050,” says Alice Ridley, a spokesperson for the Campaign for Better Transport. “They have said they want to see more journeys by public transport, walking and cycling. Taking a private jet is extremely damaging for the environment, especially when there are other alternatives that would be far less polluting and would also be cheaper.”

Private planes carry far fewer passengers, while about 40% of flights are empty, simply getting the aircraft to the right location. Flying short distances also means planes are less fuel-efficient.

“A private jet is the most polluting form of transport you can take,” says Matt Finch, the UK policy manager for Transport & Environment. “The average private jet emits two tonnes of carbon an hour. The average European is responsible for [emitting] eight tonnes of carbon a year. You fly to the south of France and back, that’s half a year in one trip.”

Continue ReadingFlying shame: the scandalous rise of private jets

Zahawi’s tax evasions point to a more fundamental problem for the Tories

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/e/zahawis-tax-evasions-point-more-fundamental-problem-tories

TORY chairman Nadhim Zahawi’s tax problems are a bigger headache for the Prime Minister than he has yet acknowledged.

Zahawi pleads that it was mere carelessness that saw him forced to pay HMRC nearly £5 million in unpaid tax (inclusive of a penalty) while he was, er, the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Financial sloppiness isn’t a great look for a chancellor, but in Zahawi’s defence he’s admitted to it before. It was after all a “genuine mistake” that saw him claim thousands in expenses to heat the stables for a horse-riding school on his Warwickshire estate.

Labour rails at Conservative “corruption and cronyism,” but the fundamental issue is more basic still. This is a government of the rich, for the rich, by the rich and it is making us poorer.

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/e/zahawis-tax-evasions-point-more-fundamental-problem-tories

Continue ReadingZahawi’s tax evasions point to a more fundamental problem for the Tories

Nadhim Zahawi ‘agreed on penalty’ to settle tax bill worth millions

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/jan/20/nadhim-zahawi-agreed-on-penalty-to-settle-tax-bill-worth-millions

The Conservative party chair, Nadhim Zahawi, agreed to pay a penalty to HMRC as part of a seven-figure settlement over his tax affairs, the Guardian has been told.

The former chancellor, who still attends the cabinet, has been subject to extensive questions in parliament and the media in recent days after it emerged he agreed to pay millions to HMRC in December after a settlement with the tax agency.

The Guardian has now been told that the former chancellor paid a penalty imposed by HMRC – part of an estimated £5m tax bill.

Penalties are applied if someone does not pay the correct tax at the right time.

Asked repeatedly about the penalty, Zahawi’s spokesperson did not deny one had been paid. Nor did they offer any explanation or clarification about the sums involved.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2023/jan/20/nadhim-zahawi-agreed-on-penalty-to-settle-tax-bill-worth-millions

How I cost Nadhim Zahawi £3.7million

The former chancellor’s tax avoidance scheme, which has left his political career in the balance, was uncovered by an independent tax expert who Zahawi then tried to frustrate through legal means. Here’s how he did it

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Continue ReadingNadhim Zahawi ‘agreed on penalty’ to settle tax bill worth millions

Sunak under fire over second jet flight for UK trip in a week

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/jan/13/sunak-under-fire-over-second-jet-flight-for-uk-trip-in-a-week

Rishi Sunak has been accused of wasting taxpayers’ money and making a mockery of the government’s strategy for tackling the climate crisis, after chartering a second private jet for a UK trip within a week.

The prime minister took a roughly 90-minute ride in an RAF plane to Scotland for a two-day visit, where he held a meeting with the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and announced the opening of two new freeports.

Both leaders met in Inverness, before Sunak headed to nearby Port of Cromarty Firth to mark the announcement about plans for a green freeport there. He headed back to Downing Street on Friday afternoon.

Continue ReadingSunak under fire over second jet flight for UK trip in a week

Revealed: Conservatives took more than £800,000 from private health firms

Original article republished from Open Democracy

Private health tycoons have wined and dined senior ministers while cashing in on NHS contracts

Martin Williams

12 January 2023, 11.02pm

Private health firms have donated more than £800,000 to the Conservative Party over the past ten years, openDemocracy can reveal.

This includes companies run by wealthy tycoons who have wined and dined former prime ministers Boris Johnson and Theresa May and other senior ministers.

NHS sign
Rishi Sunak’s party has accepted huge donations from private health firms.

The finding comes as the government hands out more NHS contracts to the private sector in a bid to tackle the backlog in the health service.

The British Medical Association has warned that relying on the private sector threatens the “sustainability of the NHS”, which has suffered from “a decade of underinvestment”.

Now, an investigation by openDemocracy reveals how Rishi Sunak’s party has received at least £800,000 from more than 35 private health and social care businesses. The true figure could be even higher because donors do not have to declare their field of work, meaning some may have flown under the radar.

And this is on top of huge personal donations from some of the business moguls behind these private healthcare companies.

Health profits

The Conservative Friends of the NHS is a group of Tory-voting doctors and health professionals who claim to support the NHS. The group’s president is health minister Maria Caufield and it has hosted stalls at the Conservative Party’s annual conference.

But the organisation’s chairman and founder, Dr Ashraf Chohan, has not worked for the NHS for 23 years, according to his LinkedIn profile, and himself has a private GP and private health insurance.

Chohan is a private health tycoon who set up a portfolio of medical and nursing businesses in London. One of his firms, West End Medical Practice Limited, has donated more than £198,000 to the Tories since 2019 – making it one of the sector’s biggest political donors.

As chair of the Conservative Friends of the NHS, Chohan has met with senior politicians, including Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Nadhim Zahawi. Before Christmas, in the midst of the ongoing NHS crisis, he also attended a “meaningful” meeting at Number 10.

Despite the group’s claim to support the NHS, it has repeatedly championed a two-tier health system on Twitter, saying the private sector “should be applauded for reducing demand for the NHS”. In other tweets it has advocated health insurance and argued that “all high taxpayers must have [private health] insurance by 2025”.

Experts say reliance on private health firms is creating a system in which poorer people who cannot afford to go private are “left to put up or shut up”.

NHS outsourcing to the private sector has also been linked to higher mortality rates. And hospitals that use private cleaning companies have been linked with higher rates of the MRSA superbug.

Image reads Accident & Emergency, A & E
NHS outsourcing to the private sector has been linked to higher mortality rates.

During the pandemic, Chohan – who previously donated to Labour before switching – came under scrutiny over two private firms he ran with his son that sold Covid tests. Reports said customers were charged between £80-£200 for the PCR tests, but many complained about lost samples and refused refunds.

Another Conservative Party donor is Genix Healthcare Ltd, which is part of a group of private dental clinics that makes the “majority” of its £6.6m income from NHS contracts.

The company was set up in response to the “severe shortage of NHS dentists” and says it aims to become the “dental corporate of choice for the NHS”.

Genix Healthcare has bankrolled the Tories with donations worth more than £158,000 since 2015, including cash and sponsorships.

Its owner, Mustafa Mohammed, who has posed for photos with Johnson and May and boasted about owning a Rolls-Royce and a Mercedes S-Class, has also given almost £225,000 of his own money to the party.

This includes a £20,000 donation to Jeremy Hunt in 2019, the year after he resigned as health secretary.

As one of the party’s top donors, Mohammed has been part of an elite Tory dining club called the Leader’s Group, which enjoys regular access to the prime minister and senior government figures.

Care homes and GPs

The majority of Tory donations from the private health sector have come since the pandemic began in 2020.

One such donor, Doctor Care Anywhere Group PLC, has given the party more than £37,000 in the past two years – and reportedly spent £1,000 on a ticket for government minister Paul Scully to watch a cricket match at Lord’s.

The company, which charges up to £60 for a single telephone call with a GP, raked in £25m revenue in the 2021 financial year.

Yet its records from last year say that a “severe shortage of GPs in the UK” has meant the firm’s “clinician capacity is currently insufficient to meet patient demand”. Bosses said they would not try to incentivise staff with additional pay rises because this would impact on Doctor Care Anywhere’s “cash generation”.

The Conservatives also accepted £28,000 worth of donations from Advinia Health Care Limited, which operates a network of 36 care homes across the UK.

The company has earned huge amounts of public money and boasted almost £96m in turnover in its latest financial accounts. From this, Advinia took more than £1.8m of pre-tax profits.

“Approximately 80% of group revenues came from state-funded Local Authorities and CCGs [clinical commissioning groups],” the company’s 2021 report says, adding that the taxpayer money “provide[s] the group steady, secure and timely cash inflows”.

But despite its healthy finances, Advinia’s founder and chairman, Dr Sanjeev Kanoria, recently called on Sunak to increase the government’s financial support to private care homes.

The Tories continued to accept donations from Advinia Health Care even after questions were raised about its finances. In 2019, the Guardian reported that the company had been placed under investigation by regulators over concerns about its cash flow and financial management. It was also claimed that bosses had refused to agree to an independent audit of its finances.

The true owners of Advinia Health Care remain unknown, thanks to the company’s financial structure. Records say the ultimate controlling party is the ‘Paraman Trust Settlement’, but there is no explanation of what this is, where it is located, or who is behind it. There is no trace of the Paraman Trust Settlement on the UK’s official company registry and little mention of it anywhere online.

Money donated by companies like Advinia Health Care comes on top extra cash that has been personally given by wealthy business tycoons in the health sector.

They include Dolar Popat, who has donated more than £188,000 in the past decade. Popat used to run a care home business and was appointed to the House of Lords in 2010.

John Nash is another former private healthcare tycoon who has donated to the Conservatives and been made a peer. Nash is the former chairman of Care UK, which operates 150 residential homes for elderly people.

Another firm, Babylon Healthcare, which provides GP consultations over the phone, also came under the spotlight recently amid reports that shareholders had donated to the former health secretary, Matt Hancock.

Original article republished from Open Democracy

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Continue ReadingRevealed: Conservatives took more than £800,000 from private health firms

Another call for earlier ban on flaring in oil and gas fields

This is the second report this month to call for a ban on flaring in the next two years. A cross-party report by the House of Commons environmental audit committee made the same recommendation on 5 January.

Mr Skidmore was commissioned by the former prime minister, Liz Truss, to review UK proposals to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Last year, the government accepted a ruling by the High Court that its net zero strategy was unlawful. The landmark judgement agreed with arguments by Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth and Good Law Project that the strategy failed to show how the UK’s legally-binding carbon budgets would be met.

The review ran to 340 pages and had 129 recommendations.

It said flaring was responsible for 22% of carbon emissions on oil and gas fields. About 70% of oil and gas field emissions were from powering equipment on platforms, it said.

The offshore industry published a Methane Action Plan in 2021 to reduce emissions and flaring. This committed the industry to a 50% methane emission reduction by 2030, compared with 2018 levels. Shell has committed to zero routine flaring by 2025.

Net zero: Tory MP warns government must take urgent action to meet climate goals
Continue ReadingAnother call for earlier ban on flaring in oil and gas fields

Sunak ‘hasn’t a clue’ on climate scientist claims

https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/labour-yougov-nhs-university-college-london-mps-b2256689.html

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak doesn’t understand climate breakdown and should revoke all new oil and gas exploration licences, a climate expert has said.

Professor Bill McGuire of University College London said he was not surprised that Mr Sunak did not mention climate in his New Year’s speech on Wednesday.

According to a YouGov poll, the environment ranks fourth in the public’s list of most important issues facing the country.

But it was left out of Mr Sunak’s five-point pledge to halve inflation, grow the economy, curb illegal Channel crossings and bring down the national debt and NHS waiting times.

A PM who issues more than a hundred new oil and gas exploration licences and gives the go-ahead for a new coalmine clearly hasn’t a clue or simply doesn’t care, or perhaps both

Professor Bill McGuire

https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/labour-yougov-nhs-university-college-london-mps-b2256689.html

Continue ReadingSunak ‘hasn’t a clue’ on climate scientist claims

NHS needs practical and urgent action, not Sunak’s ‘false promises and hollow boasts,’ RCN warns

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/b/nhs-needs-practical-and-urgent-action-not-sunak-false-promises-and-hollow-boasts-rcn-warns

NHS sign

RISHI SUNAK’S first speech of the year was more “false promises and hollow boasts” while the NHS needs practical and urgent action, a leading nurse warned today.

The Prime Minister said in his first public address of the new year that one of his five promises was to cut NHS waiting lists and ensure that people “get the care they need more quickly.”

His other promises were to “halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, and stop the [refugee] boats”.

The PM did not specify a timeframe for his pledges and spent most of his speech discussing tackling increasing strike actions, including by nurses and ambulance staff, and immigration levels.

In a letter to Health Secretary Steve Barclay, Royal College of Nursing chief executive Pat Cullen said the PM’s language “appeared detached from the reality of what is happening and why.”

Continue ReadingNHS needs practical and urgent action, not Sunak’s ‘false promises and hollow boasts,’ RCN warns

Jonathan Pie on Conservative Party misrule of UK in 2022

Jonathan Pie: Boris Johnson is a Liar

Jonathan Pie: Bye Bye Boris

Jonathan Pie: Liz Truss Gone

Jonathan Pie: Tax Dodgers

I’m really enjoying Jonathan Pie. He could be a parody of me except that he’s a parody of a UK journalist instead. A few vids here where he discusses Boris, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. Enjoy ;)

Continue ReadingJonathan Pie on Conservative Party misrule of UK in 2022