Monitor to employ 600 at an average salary of over £50,000.
Private health firms are experiencing a boost in business from NHS cuts.
The ConDem coalition government eases information requirments for private healthcare providers.
The ConDem coalition government hides the cost of reforming the NHS until after the third reading of the Destroy the NHS / Health and Social Care Bill. It is disappointing that the government resorts to such subterfuge.
- Conservative election poster 2010
A few recent news articles about the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.
Monitor – the government’s revamped organisation to regulate competition in the NHS – is set to become ‘a bloated bureaucratic monster’, Unite, the largest union in the country, has warned.
Unite said that Monitor’s running costs were set to soar from £72 million-a-year to £82 million – with a 600-strong staff being paid twice the national average wage of £26,000.
Unite said that ministers were creating a bloated, old fashioned bureaucracy which would be responsible for handing over lucrative NHS contracts to the ‘government’s friends’ in the private healthcare sector.
Monitor was expecting to spend a further £14 million-a-year on consultants and £4 million in legal fees, according to the Department of Health’s own Impact Assessment report.
Monitor is a lynchpin of the government’s Health and Social Care Bill, currently before Parliament, with the remit of promoting choice, competition and collaboration – which Unite says are contradictory and confusing aims.
Unite national officer for health, Rachael Maskell said: ‘It is equally disgraceful that the Impact Assessment team have been unable “to develop a robust monetary estimate of the benefits of changes to the regulatory regime”.
‘All this indicates that a revamped Monitor is not being geared for the benefit of patients, but as a conduit to channel lucrative NHS contracts to private healthcare companies, many of whom have bankrolled the Tory party since David Cameron became leader.’
‘Monitor anticipates employing about 600 staff at an average cost of £84,000 each, which would include salaries, National Insurance contributions, any pension provision and other costs.’
‘This works out at average annual salary levels of more than £50,000 – double that of the average national salary of £26,000. A bloated bureaucratic monster is being created – so much for all the ministerial chatter about efficiency savings. This is being paid for by cuts to frontline services, as well as staff pay and terms and conditions.’
As Andrew Lansley’s hugely controversial and largely unaltered Health and Social Care Bill faced its crucial vote in the Commons, unelected Tory Health Minister Lord Howe was smugly assuring a conference of grasping private-sector companies that the Bill offers them “genuine opportunities” to take over large chunks of the NHS.
There would be profitable opportunities galore – both in the provision of certain profitable services and in supplying management expertise to help GPs decide how to spend local budgets.
Howe recognised that “the NHS will not give up their patients easily.”
But of course that’s why the Bill, which sailed through a docile Commons with a majority of 65, will stack the odds against public-sector providers and open up most of the £100 billion NHS budget in England to cherry-picking private companies.
It will scrap any pretence at strategic planning or equitable provision by abolishing primary care trusts and strategic health authorities and strip away the thin veneer of local accountability, putting a new national body, the NHS Commissioning Board, and the regulator Monitor – led by pro-market fundamentalist and former McKinsey consultant David Bennett, who was also at the conference with Howe bigging up the private sector – firmly in charge.
Monitor will draw up the list of “any qualified providers” which GPs will have to offer as “choices” when patients need further treatment.
The Bill, coupled with the massive £20bn cuts programme to be achieved by 2014, will also pull the financial rug from under dozens of major NHS hospitals, forcing them to close services, merge with neighbouring trusts and axe staff to stay afloat.
At the same time it will encourage many foundation trusts to maximise the numbers of wealthy private patients they treat, by removing all limits on the amount of money they can make.
While David Cameron and his arrogant, lying ministers falsely claimed support from “the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Physicians, the nurses, people working in the Health Service,” we all know that quite the opposite is the case.
The Bill is even opposed by a large majority of GPs, who are the only people apparently set to benefit from its proposals, making Lansley possibly the first politician in history to seek to force £80bn in commissioning budgets into the hands of people who insist they don’t want it.
The Bill is also rejected by the BMA, which has promised to step up its lobbying against the Bill in the Lords, by Royal Colleges, and by almost every academic and think tank not in the pay of the neoliberal right wing.
Every health union is also against the Bill, but the mass campaign that was needed to stop it has still not taken off – a year after the TUC voted unanimously against the outlines of the Bill, as set out in Lansley’s white paper.
NHS costs squeeze means longer waiting lists – and growing numbers of patients opting to pay for operations, say private firms
by Denis Campbell
Private healthcare firms are experiencing an increase in business caused by the financial squeeze across the NHS in England, a new report on the sector shows.
Independent providers are benefitting from the growing number of patients who are choosing to pay for their own care after having treatment delayed or denied altogether by an NHS primary care trust (PCT).
In a survey of 101 influential industry figures – including chief executives, investors and advisers – 34% said budgetary pressure in the NHS had led to increased demand for private healthcare.
While the reasons were not given, experts said the NHS’s need to cut costs was prompting patients to fund their own hip or knee replacement, hernia repair or cataract removal. “We are certainly picking up that some patients are being asked to wait longer than they would have expected and are therefore deciding to pay for themselves rather than wait,” said David Worskett, chief executive of the NHS Partners Network, which represents more than 30 firms – both for-profit and not-for-profit – that work with the NHS.
Worskett said “misguided” decisions of many PCTs to force patients to wait many months for treatment, often until the next financial year, lay behind the growing trend. Many PCTs are rationing access to care as the NHS struggles to adjust to a 0.1% annual increase in its budget, after years of big rises, and the need to make £20bn of efficiency savings by 2015.
The trend is a boost for a UK private health market which that was hit hard by the downturn in 2008 and for which recovery since has lagged behind that seen elsewhere in Europe, according to Credit Suisse. It is contained in HealthInvestor magazine’s annual study of the industry’s fortunes in conjunction with law firm Nabarro, called The Healthcare Industry Barometer 2011, which is published today.
While battle rages over the government’s controversial reforms of the NHS, the Department of Health has sneaked out two toxic changes that could seriously damage your health by promoting ignorance and restricting your rights as a citizen.
The two changes appear to be unconnected but are extremely helpful to new private providers of NHS medical services. One will limit the information that the private firms have to provide under the Freedom of Information Act to patients and relatives, the other will help them by abolishing the collection of health statistics on the services they provide and the quality of staff they employ.
The first has been revealed by the authoritative Campaign for Freedom of Information who are rightly demanding that Andrew Lansley, the health secretary, amends the law so patients can be protected. See their letter here.
The second comes from a very convoluted consultation exercise launched the day after the August bank holiday and trumpeted by Anne Milton, the public health minister, as a drive against “red tape”.
This proposes to slash the collection of statistics by the Department of Health by 25 per cent in a rather uneven and unclear way. But it is clear that the aim is to “minimise the burden” on the NHS and in particular the new private providers.
Half the statistics collected on the NHS workforce – which are used to improve staff training and forecast the need for skilled staff – are to be dropped. The consultation document says: “This will be of significance for non-NHS providers of NHS services as it will determine the minimum workforce information they would be required to provide.”
Labour’s shadow health secretary John Healey has attacked the government for slipping out details on the cost of reforming the NHS the day after the House of Commons finished debating the legislation.
The Department of Health published the revised impact assessment on 8 September but, Healey said, this was prepared and signed off on 1 September.
Healey said in the Commons: “Last week MPs were asked to debate, amend and pass the Health and Social Care Bill with no new information of the costs and consequences of the biggest reorganisation in NHS history because the government had promised a new impact assessment following the Future Forum recommendations.
“The day after the debate, the new impact assessment was then smuggled out with no press statement. It shows Monitor, the new economic regulator, plan to employ 600 staff at an average cost of £84,000. And most importantly, it shows a health minister signed off the assessment on 1 September – a full five days before the Bill was debated last week.
“It’s a disgrace these facts were kept hidden from MPs and the public before such a critical and controversial debate.”
“Save the NHS and kill the bill.” That was the rallying cry from UNISON president Eleanor Smith as the TUC debated the government’s NHS plans and the All Together for the NHS campaign to defeat them.
“Our NHS is number one in equity, number one in quality and number one in safety,” said Ms Smith, who works in the health service as a theatre nurse.
But just a week ago, she recalled: “MPs began a two-day debate to wash their hands of the NHS. And on Wednesday night they voted to pass the Health and Social Care Bill.”
Now, she said, in terms of Parliament “all that stands between the government and our NHS is the House of Lords.”
And make no mistake, she added, “the bill hasn’t changed. Yes, they had what they laughingly called a listening exercise. Yes, there have been tweaks. But all the essentials are still there.”
The bill still removes the health secretary’s responsibility to deliver a health service in England, “any qualified provider” remains, allowing private companies to provide services instead of the NHS and the cap on NHS hospitals treating private patients has been lifted.
And in an age of austerity and cuts, warned Ms Smith, “hospitals will be forced to do all they can to raise cash from whatever source”.
The government’s proposed health service changes have nothing to do with improving the NHS, promoting better integration, or keeping the NHS safe for future generations, the CSP told the TUC Congress today.
CSP industrial relations committee chair Alex MacKenzie said the Any Qualified Provider policy and the Health and Social Care Bill would put the free market above all other considerations, leading to fragmented services, a postcode lottery for care, rationing and the undermining of professional collaboration.
Seconding composite motion 10 at Congress, which ‘deplored’ the government’s health reforms because they would ‘break up the NHS and put profits ahead of patients’, Ms MacKenzie said ‘overseas healthcare companies are rubbing their hands. The Coalition is waving to them – ‘come over here, Britain’s open for business, the rest of the country might be struggling, but there’s money to be made on the NHS’.
Pointing out that the NHS was ranked number one in the world for quality, equity and safety despite costing less per head than many other major developing countries, Ms MacKenzie said there was no case for radical upheaval. The CSP and other health unions would continue to oppose the reforms, she said.
‘It isn’t all over yet.’
‘The Bill has still to go through the House of Lords and then back to the Commons.
‘There is still time to protect the NHS.’
The vote was carried.