EXCLUSIVE: Secret Tory steering committee working overtime to ready NHS for mass privatisation

Enquiries by The Slog in the later hours of yesterday evening confirmed that an informal but extremely powerful Working Group has been set up by the Coalition – separate from both NHS management and the Department for Health – to assess the best way to facilitate the handover of NHS Hospital Trusts to the private sector.

Although details are hazy as yet, a picture is emerging of a Group very obviously dominated by privateers and anti-State lobbyists. To the best of my knowledge thus far, not a single member of it is closely associated with (or technically proficient in the understanding of) Britain’s rapidly expanding mutuality sector.

In the midst of blanket 24/7 coverage of paedophiles under every care home bed alongside easily the most boring Presidential election since 1972, this NHS story may not gain much traction immediately; but it is nevertheless the clearest sign yet to emerge of the Conservative Party’s intention to hand over what’s left of the debt-ridden hospital sector lock stock and barrel to the private/insurance sector.

The National Audit Office (NAO) today points out vigorously in a press release that the NHS must get tougher at negotiating future private deals, following the signing of a contract with private Group Circle to make over £300m of savings in the 10 years it has been given to run Hinchingbrooke Hospital. The NAO said it was concerned that Circle’s ability to make the savings had not been properly tested…. a worry that is wholly consistent with reports I get every week about the sloppy, chaotic way the creeping profitification of the UK’s health service is moving ahead and accelerating.

A week ago, a cross-Party group of MPs declared that a total of 34 NHS organisations – nearly one in 12 – failed to balance their books in 2011-12. And the Public Accounts Committee recently expressed concern that ‘ministers could not offer adequate assurances that access to good quality care would be maintained when trusts had problems’.

PAC Chairman Margaret Hodge said: “It very much looks like the department [of health] is inventing the rules and processes on the hoof, rather than anticipating problems and establishing risk protocols.”

The cross-Party MPs meanwhile added that the government ‘is unable to explain what would trigger action in a trust with serious financial problem’s – and how essential services would be maintained while this happened. But the word that’s misplaced in that observation is ‘unable’.

It should really read ‘unwilling’. Says one health sector insider:

“The Lansley strategy was always to give GPs whatever they wanted and wait for cash-starved hospitals to collapse. It was probably a boon for the Government that Mr Lansley enjoys only meagre skills as a communicator, because amid all the furore over his ideas, and Trade Union noise about cuts, the growing hospital cash-crisis went critical with very few protesters noticing.”

I also understand that both Jeremy Hunt and his private-health lobbyist cousin Lady Bottomley get constant access to and input from the discreet Working Group.

Laughably, yesterday Health Secretary Hunt expressed his opinion that NHS managers had been too focused on targets and finances and had “lost sight” of patient care. He was issuing new standards covering how NHS managers should work….but while doing so, the DfH, lobbyists and secret Working Group were girding their loins in readiness for an orgy of private takeovers, where the emphasis would be on remote shareholder dividends rather than community needs.

The two-faced hypocrisy and back-of-envelope policy development are only too familiar in the madhouse that is contemporary Westminster politics. Mealy-mouthed Frunt-Bottomley added:

“We’ve seen cases where some managers seem to have lost sight of the fact that keeping control of care is as important as keeping control of finances……We will continue to look at how NHS managers can be better supported and put these values at the heart of management, learning from the findings of the inquiries into Mid Staffordshire…”

Here the Health Secretary is making a clumsy association between the NHS’s worst ever failure, and the whole concept of social Health Care. But nobody in Camerlot is looking at the very real (and more stabilising) mutuality alternative to clumsy State control and profit-obsessed private ownership.

At the same time, yet again the Left has preferred futile demonstrations, soundbites and slogan-yelling to the opportunity for suggesting something better and achievable that could capture the public imagination.

Earlier yesterday evening, a senior London NHS manager confirmed to The Slog that “the Lansley proposals were nothing more than a Trojan Horse paving the way for privatisation”. The hugely imaginative Ed Miller Band policy is to undo everything the Torylition has done, and go straight back to the very Labour funding practices that generated the long-term funding problem in the first place.

Somewhere between these two misguided, polemic-fuelled directions is the thing a majority of Brits want: the survival of a more modern, better funded and cost-free NHS. But in the context of current British political process, that is never going to happen.

This has been Reason No. 6,913 why we need to demolish the UK Party system and start again

45 thoughts on “EXCLUSIVE: Secret Tory steering committee working overtime to ready NHS for mass privatisation

  1. All I can say is ‘good, about time’. Your knee jerk NHS worship does you no credit. The NHS is a disaster. Far from being the envy of the world it is just about the worst system you could possibly devise (which is probably why no other country adopted it and the first thing the Comecon countries did on getting freedom was adopt a mixed system instead of a state-run monolith). It is overrun with bureaucrats and run for the convenience of the staff not the patients. It is secretive and widely incompetent. Outcomes from cancer treatment are among the worst in the developed world. Deaths from infections because they can’t even keep the damn places clean are a disgrace. As for the so-called Liverpool “Care” Pathway, withdrawing fluids from the elderly, think on this: if you did this as a private citizen to your aged grandparent you’d be (rightly) charged with murder.

    It is expensive, inefficient and ineffectual. The choice is not between ‘NHS = good, USA = feral’. There are other systems out there which deliver better outcomes for a lower proportion of GDP, like Japan, Germany, Singapore. Look at the amazing improvement in Hinchingbrooke hospital trust since it was handed over to private management. They should be doing that all over the country and replicating it.

    Alternatively I suppose we could take the “envy of the world NHS” and extend that model. We could set up a National Food Service with a Department for Food. Imagine how successful that could be, all those thrusting, dynamic, entrepreneurial civil servants in charge of the food supply chain. What could possibly go wrong?

    Free at the point of use with care for all is wonderful. Let us not confuse that with the man in Whitehall running everything.

    • Hey Sebastian, when did you catch up with Wardy’s opinions on the NHS? He’s absolutely for reform. And – if you read what he says he’s for mutuality not antiquated bureaucratic state control. He is also, as I am, against profit driven privateers taking it over.
      Do we want G4S running the show?
      There ARE other models as you rightly point out.
      But don’t accuse the Slog of blindly supporting an unrestructured NHS.

      • The profit motive is what turned around Hinchingbrooke. Competition/profit is the engine for improvement. Mutuality is a dead duck.

        Money should follow the patient and the patient should choose. End of.

      • Bollocks.
        Privatisation has been a total F*cking disaster in the UK. Where the hell have you been for the last 25 years?

    • Sebastian

      Good post, but you will win no plaudits here. I am surprised that the ‘Slog’, with his doubtless knowledge of the French system, still regards the NHS as fit for purpose.

      M.

    • Hi Seb,

      Agree with all you say. I have used the comparison with the even more vital food distribution system myself.

      Get the government out of service delivery as soon as possible.

    • Thank you. It’s time (actually well past time) we started looking at the systems in the countries you list. I would add France, Norway and Switzerland.

    • Strange, then that ‘the man in Whitehall running everything’ approach is favourite for education, where even more schools (primary and secondary) are being taken out of local control (imperfect, but at least theoretically accountable to the local population using the public service) and turned into academies of various sorts, accountable to civil servants.
      As for a National Food Service, this was done, more or less, during World War II. These days, we have the largely illusory choice of a small number of gigantic supermarket chains.
      On topic, hygiene problems in hospitals can be partlyblamed, at least, on outsourcing cleaning services to private firms. To be competitive and profitable, they reduce cleaning staff numbers and spending on materials.

  2. As the US of A just proved to be – a two part state.
    Two inadequate parties – not a state to be in.
    Left/Right – State/Private – Liberal/Conservative – Welfare/Market – Donkey/Elephant – Labour/Tory – Meritocracy/Etontoff –
    Where here is represented the vast majority of people?
    The sensible centre ground?
    Bi-polar two party FPTP systems cannot provide the solution.
    Swing one way – lurch the other. Inconsistent, disjointed, adversorial.
    Broken. Broken here and broken in the USA.
    John – you ARE right but how do we develop the mutuality we want without ridding ourselves of the current system first.
    Where is the passion for revolution we need?
    “What do we want?”
    “Middle ground consensus politics and mutuality!”
    “When do we want it?”
    “When we can agree as to how we are to overturn the current system!”
    So the middle flounders while extremists get the shout. Mutuality gets ignored while profit driven privateers prosper, bureaucrats bungle and the Left cries “foul, state control, spend”.
    We need to change the system. Lead on McDuff.

  3. This is all so predictable and part of the Milton Friedman and his Chicago Boys concept of Neo –Liberalism.
    Government control is bad and privatisation is good. Good for raping the citizen of his basic social support systems, and making unseemly profit at his expense. Financed of course by the private sector banksters.
    Thatcher was a clever and strong political leader, but she was no economist and swallowed this false Economic junk theory, no doubt fed to her by City people and their suborned Economists who could see easy profits to be made into posterity using this neo –liberal creed.
    This was the false doctrine that justified the wholesale privatisation of our Power,Gas, Transport ,water, telecommunication etc.
    There is not much left only the remains of our NHS and Educational systems and as expected they are to be scavenged by the Corporate Vultures.
    The UK is now a wasteland of opportunity, with our manufacturing Industry destroyed and mass unemployment of over 1 million for our youth. We have stored up a huge time bomb of despair and frustration with this youth.
    The recent riots are but a symptom of this frustration with ,I believe ,much more to come as austerity bites into the lower class incomes.

    • You’re not far wrong methinks, Lad from Salford – but what hope have we that any half-decent solutions will even be considered by our servants at Westminster, never mind be permitted by their financial masters?
      How could even Swift’s pen have adequately portrayed such inspired lunacy as the privatising of water?
      JW’s suggested approach to the NHS may well work if given the chance but, however appealing or beneficial it might be to the average user of the service, what possible attraction would it hold for either the bureaucrats currently enjoying a modest living under the present arrangements, or the thrusting, dymanic entrepreneur hoping to turn an honest shilling?

  4. I have always believed it is the right of every free-born man to rebel against an autocratic, incompetent or corrupt government.

    As our governments for years past have managed to tick all three boxes, I believe that right is fast becoming a civic duty.

    • ButTed, rebellion has to go beyond the blogosphere.
      Do you think the Millibeans are holding the current autocratic, incompetent and corrupt government to account?
      Do you think they would do any better?
      When and where does the rebellion start. I’ll be there at the kick-off (if it’s not raining). (Or it’s too cold.) (Or if there’s any decent footie on my big, flat 3D telly.)

      • No Dunc, I do not think they would do any better.

        I cannot understand the reverence afforded to Millipede’s father, Hobsbawm, et al. I consider the term “marxist intellectual” to be an oxymoron.

        Unfortunately, the general population of these isles has been lulled into an apathetic laissez-faire attitude by years of ‘Bread & Circuses’ by politicos of all hues, with the dwindling number of ‘wage slaves’ funding it.

        It WILL all end in tears, probably – but will the ensuing violent anarchy produce anything better?

        I have my doubts.

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  6. The care company who are meant to be popping in to my poor old mother in law four times aday have failed miserably in their care quality.

    Social services put a watch on them- failed again, ma in law in hospital again, and new care company has yet to be chosen. poor thing was almost rotting in front of our eyes. Are Social services fit for purpose- I think not either.

  7. The Private sector in the UK has for too long required ‘short term profits’ and further privatisation of the UK Health Requirement (not Market) will see Privatised co’s. cherry picking, and thus appearing more efficient by leaving the state to cope with all the more complex problems.

    The NHS is definitely worth supporting, and in my opinion the UK should drastically reduce its Defence budget, as too often the Armed Services are used solely for the ‘glorification’ of UK PM’s in search of enhancing their non-existent reputation by adding being a ‘war PM’ to their CV to bolster the bizarre impression that they were ‘strong’ (can anyone imagine Blair/Cameron leading a charge from the trenches?).

    All savings should be hypothicated to expanded State funded Education and Health (NHS) services.

    The UK must start again to expect the need for long term investments in the National interest that the are capital intensive.

    The City/Finance Sector is it appears totally enamoured to short term gambles based on relatively capital light requirements, this is why the UK is so dependent on consumer spending and Casino banking (services) as an economy

    • Hi alter,

      Sorry, but this notion of cherry picking (often quoted) is complete nonsense. The only reason one part of the service might be more profitable than another is because it has been mis-priced by the men in Whitehall.

      • Hi Ivel Mike,

        Are you seriously arguing that a collection of small free standing specialist private healthcare providers can and would provide as comprehensive health care system as the NHS including all the aspects the NHS provides.

        I am not saying that the NHS is perfect but there is an old Kenyan saying that goes something like: Do not tear down something unless you are certain you are replacing it with something of value.

        For me private profit motivated healthcare is not a superior solution as IMHO they will rush to the low hanging fruit procedures, produce showy ‘savings’ on what they do but make the rest of the care more expensive for us due to necessary entities in the NHS being neutered and weakened by the private cos.

        Also look at what is happening at long standing private healthcare cos. such as BUPA who are aggressively making exclusions whilst grossly inflating their costs, especially to older members.

        Finally please produce a country of similar population size that has a more cost effective, solely private healthcare system that actually provides a fully integrated service.

      • Ivel Mike: “Sorry, but this notion of cherry picking (often quoted) is complete nonsense. ”

        Sorry Mike, but you’re spouting bullshit. Corporations don’t want unprofitable parts of any business, they’re not into delivery of essential social services no matter the cost. The bottom line rules. Always.

        Here in Ireland, successive governments have toyed with the idea of privatising our bus and rail services for decades, but still haven’t because every time they approach the marked they’re told in no uncertain terms, that the same vulture-like international companies would be at the top of the list of franchise winners, and that their M.O. is to run profitable routes only, meaning unprofitable, but locally vital bus and rail services would be withdrawn, as happened in Britain.The alternative being the state would have to continue to subsidise these routes in perpetuity.

        And for all Sloggers : Just because JW is evidently against the mass privatisation of the NHS and the problems that would obviously create in an area so important as health care, it doesn’t then suggest that JW is pro-status quo. Read the f**king article.

  8. One particular area of the NHS which at a simple flick would save about £8Billions(yesB)is the payment for prescriptions in the community and the hospitals.There is a huge disparity between them for exactly the same medicine.On top of which,the Drug Tariff,sets the price of medicines and appliances in the community-I am not making this up in this day and age.So,most prescriptions issued by GPs are repeats,those should be fed onto an “auction type”website controlled by the Dispensing Service Payment Office,it already exists as does its servers,and the prescription goes to the lowest cost.What is wrong with that?Can’t you just hear the howls from the Pharmaceutical Negotiating Committee,the laughably inept and corrupt Royal Pharmaceutical Society and of course our great Universities who are churning out pharmacist to deadend jobs or immigration.This is just one area of many where corruption and cronyism lurks within the NHS and the NHS is affordable if real management knows the cost of treatment.Many PCTs are/unwilling to even tell GPs how much their surgeries cost-they should be prosecuted for the charlatans they are.

  9. The NHS is OURS is not theirs to give away to their pals in private companies. The whole thing has been corrupt from the start. People from private companies brought in as special advisors, revolving doors where they move in an out as is seen fit. Large donations from said private companies. NO MP or LORD with interests, shares, seats on boards etc of private companies should have been allowed to vote on HSCB, one thing that local government have got right. Regarding our health service, yes things could be improved no one is denying this but wholesale privatisation will not lead to better health care. even the parts that have been, have proved to be more expensive :( and we all know about the american style of health care…. strange no one ever looks at the Scandinavian countries when they compare ours…..as they are based on the socialist model…..everyone gets treated like here :) and not surprisingly some of the emerging countries such as brazil are having the NHS as their basis of providing health care for the many contrary to what you have stated sebasian weetabix. They have a mixture, like here, we have always had a mixed economy of healthcare, NHS for everyone, paid for through general taxation, and for those who wish to go privately the option has always been there for them to pay for that. if you wish to go privately go ahead but leave our nhs alone

  10. Ordinary people need to discover the economic power they have inherently as consumers and as business-funders when acting collectively.Their collective consumer action make business owners rich/richer or poorer.Their collective action,local or national,can benefit diverse social market-based enterprises/businesses with society and communities benefiting.
    In realising their inherent economic power and establishing means to exploit markets for social projects and needs,ordinary people are not just one-day dependant wonders in the democratic process,where efforts benefit communities and social need rather than making profits for businesses to finance inflated life-styles.
    Cooperatives and mutuals are at the cutting edge of collective consumer power but there’s more to come.
    It’s either going to get very interesting or very depressing.

  11. you’ll be very sorry and a lot poorer and sicker, too boot, if privatization goes on in your system. America is all the proof you need about “private Health care” which doesn’t exist. we have insurance based/ money focus insurance but little health care.

    you’ll be very sorry, if you think Government medicine is bad, you’ll love Privatized Health Care. you’ll die before the death panels/insurance companies decide which “medicine” is right for you. It’s called “Hurry up and Die!” just come to America and see how well Greed works in Health Care. the Governer of Florida ran the largerst Health Care Co of America. look what he did for the last election. Greed works wonder for the bottom line. hard to believe such PR bs about Private business and Health care are so easy to sell.

    for want of the price of tea and a slice the old man died.

    Marx was right about Capitalism hanging itself. Greed is Good. Race to the bottom. or as American Health care/Privatized health care is known, “Hurry up and Die.”

  12. Perhaps the ultimate aim is to introduce something akin to railway privatisation into the NHS.

    Hugely increased (and largely hidden) taxpayer subsidies being laundered through to private sector entities.

    Huge increases in cost at point-of-use.

    Lots of contracts for ‘corporate design consultancies’ to develop flashy new liveries and uniforms in order to show how dynamic and inherently more efficient the private sector is.

    Oh, I nearly forgot, the blame for any cock-ups no longer arrives on a Ministerial desk!

    Or perhaps I’m being far too cynical….

  13. My world view is that nothing can be permanently fixed, no system works peerfectly. There are 8 billion of us for goodness sake.
    For countries like us, at some point in the pendulum’s swing it is correct to nationalise, at other points it needs privatisation. Sometimes the capitalists are right, sometimes its the marxists (except the intellectuals, they’re always wrong). Power corrupts people, they can’t help themselves. Every now and again they have to be thrown out.
    In our time, the public sector bloc is too entrenched, too expensive, and too wasteful. They have already taken up the next 40 years of growth to fund their pensions. Strangely you might think, but at the same time, the financial/legal/political bloc is too powerful. Their greedy corruption sucks everything else of value out of the system, and helps poison every mind.

    There has to be (for this generation) a two-pronged solution.
    No. 1 emasculates the power of the financial sector; taxes capital-gains profits from non-productive financial jiggery pokery, and brings in a Tobin tax on financial trading. (who can tell me that holding shares for 5 milliseconds contributes anything to our economy) to force investors to hold their share long-term.
    That would slow down the quick-profit, sell-out mentality that pervades all big-city business these days.

    No. 2 compresses the public sector and shrinks it -by constitutional means if necessary- to a max. of 20% of the workforce. If that means privatisation, so be it.
    That would give us a fighting chance to get socialised industries back to competent efficiency, and probably allow rewards for improvement.

    Oh, and No. 3 says no red tape. Personal liability for dangerous or criminal acts, no hiding behind corporate chain of command. There are enough simple laws to control fraud, pollution, health-risk, wastefulness, and whatever else.

    Maybe aeons from now, we can all live respectfully and free-marketly. I just don’t think we are out of primary school yet, and we need the sharp smack of willow on buttock every now and again, to bring us back into line.

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  16. German system = good? Not if you’re ill and denied treatment. Too few contributions, you’re told. It happened to the brother of a friend of mine. She’s lucky enough to be a German citizen married to a Brit and living in the UK where residency rather than contributions determines entitlement to healthcare.

    Access to treatment is probably more equitable in Canada, Scandinavia and here where the system is taxation-funded. But it may be more efficient to run such a system regionally or locally as happens in Scandinavia and not run it from Whitehall which Nye Bevan was determined to do.

  17. @sebastian weetabix have you come off your meds . Because you are rambling in neo lib adam smith land language and are clearly deluded. The mrsa disease was spread cos of use of cheap labour. Something you asi loonies believe in.

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  19. The Government are hell bent on destroying the NHS so that they and their rich cronies can make a buck from our sickness. Just look at Micheal Moore’s film ‘Sicko’ which showed the way that even people in the US with health insurance often cannot get treatment – this is what happened to the fire fighters who rescued people in 9/11 with their burnt out lungs.
    In Lewisham and South East London a huge campaign is fighting to save Lewisham Hospital with one of the biggest public meetings in London and what is set to be a huge march on 24th November. People in Lewisham are saying ‘let this be over our dead body’, its a fight to the death here and we dont intend to lose as we take on the Government.

  20. This is only happening in England – Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland’s NHS are run by the devolved administrations. This is why the people of England are being sold the subsidy junkie line where as the devolved countries health services get the same proportionate funding – they just use it differently.

    If you wish to know the biggest problem with NHS funding in England just look up PFI contracts, the NHS and the billions of pounds of NHS England ‘funding’ that rolls straight into the banks with out ever touching the sides. Gordon Brown’s ‘big idea’ to keep public funding of new builds ‘off the books’. In Scotland it has been estimated that new hospitals which would have cost £6 billion to build using traditional funding are going to cost in excess of £36 billion through PFI. Worse some of the ‘new builds’ are already suffering from serious structural problems well before the 25 year point and were unfit for purpose on the day they opened.

    Having worked in the NHS both in England and Scotland and in other health systems across the world, England’s biggest problems with delivery come from all the ‘health quangos’, professional bodies, NHS Trusts and a highly politicised NHS HQ at Richmond House who are all more interested in protecting their ‘empires’ than delivering a NHS for England that is fit for purpose.

    There was an excellent scheme initiated at Leicester Royal which should have been a template for future hospital organisation in England. The outcome for both patients, staff and in terms of its budget were amazing. It was scrapped because the performance levels it was achieving were an embarassment to the Leicester Hospital Trusts other two hospitals. Another case of politics being put ahead of patient care.

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