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

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

BMA condemns ‘political choice’ not to tackle ‘intolerable’ pressure on NHS

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/jan/02/nhs-under-intolerable-and-unsustainable-pressure-say-medics

Medical body calls for ‘immediate action’ as Royal College of Emergency Medicine reiterates claims over deaths caused by care delays

Image reads Accident & Emergency, A & E

The pressure on the NHS is “intolerable and unsustainable”, medics have said, amid warnings that the deaths of up to 500 people each week could be caused by delays in emergency care.

It comes after more than a dozen NHS trusts and ambulance services declared critical incidents over the festive period, with officials citing rising flu cases and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic among the reasons for the pressure on the health service.

Prof Phil Banfield, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) council, hit out at both the prime minister and the health secretary. Highlighting the scale of the crisis facing healthcare workers, he called the government’s decision not to negotiate with medics a “political choice” that is leading to patients “dying unnecessarily”.

“The current situation in the NHS is intolerable and unsustainable, both for our patients and the hardworking staff desperately trying to keep up with incredibly high levels of demand,” he said.

Continue ReadingBMA condemns ‘political choice’ not to tackle ‘intolerable’ pressure on NHS

Commentary and analysis of recent political events

The government is trying to pass a clause in the Care bill today that will allow hospitals to be closed much easier without public consultation.

Hospital closure clause battle heats up today

Stormy scenes are likely in parliament today as the government tries to “rush through” changes that will make it far easier to close hospitals without public consultation. The changes,which OurNHS has campaigned on from the start, now face fierce opposition from doctors, 38 Degrees, the British Medical Association, NHS campaigners and charities.

On Friday Ed Miliband tabled a motion of opposition to the Bill, saying it “includes provisions which could put NHS hospitals at risk of having services reconfigured without adequate consultation and without clinical support”.

The hospital closure clause gives Trust Special Administrators greater powers including the power to make changes in neighbouring trusts without consultation. It was added to the Care Bill just as the government was being defeated by Lewisham Hospital campaigners, in an attempt to ensure that campaigners could not challenge such closure plans in the future. But the new Bill could be applied anywhere in the country.

Louise Irvine, Chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, said “If services need redesigning the law must ensure this is with proper and extensive consultation with local people. This process cannot be rushed. Decisions should not be based on the needs of investment banks. What happened to the government promises that in the NHS there would be ‘no decision about me, without me’?

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Ed Miliband commits to doubling the number of homes built each year. The move is likely to prove very popular. I think that he’s correct in recognising development and building as a racket concerned with profiteering. I would also like to see the renovation of properties and the conversion of buildings to homes or other forms of social housing.

Ed Miliband promises drive to double rate of housebuilding

Profiteering property developers that hoard land and councils that block developments will be swept aside in a “non-stop drive” to more than double the number of homes being built each year in England, Ed Miliband will promise on Monday.

Attacking “stick-in-the-mud councils”, the Labour leader will say he would order a national planning inspectorate to give priority to local authorities that want to expand if they are being blocked by neighbouring councils refusing to release land.

Under the Labour plans, councils would be empowered to compulsorily purchase land or charge fees if developers fail to build on land for which they have planning permission. Michael Lyons, the chair of Labour’s new independent commission on housing and a former BBC chairman, told the Guardian that Britain needed to recapture the postwar spirit when building homes was the national priority.

Despite MPs claiming publicly that they object to their intended pay rise, only 10 MPs back a motion to limit their pay rises to 1% to match the public sector.

Cuts to care funding mean half a million fewer looked after, study finds

Almost half a million fewer old and disabled people are receiving care and support from the public purse than would have been the case before the financial crash, according to an expert study.

The research comes as MPs vote on Monday on the coalition’s care bill, which aims to overhaul the care system in England but threatens to tighten still further the rules of eligibility for state support.

Charities and care organisations are calling on ministers to address a “black hole” in social care funding which they say has left the system short of £2.8bn a year that would be necessary to meet people’s needs assessed as “moderate”.

Bridget Warr, chief executive of the United Kingdom Homecare Association, said: “Funding good care which helps people stay in their own home is not only a moral responsibility for any civilised society, but is also cost-efficient as it extends people’s wellbeing, reducing admissions to A&E, and helps people return home from hospital quicker.”

Continue ReadingCommentary and analysis of recent political events