A heartfelt thank you to the NHS | openDemocracy

e-affirming experiences don’t come much more convincingly than cancer. In June Mr Tim Duncan, with his steady gaze and infinite blue eyes, told me that I had cancer of the ovaries, bowel and possibly liver. I had gone to see my GP, a few weeks before, thinking that I was intolerant to wheat (feeling bloated is apparently a common symptom; ladies be warned). I can’t imagine what it is like having to tell people the news that they may not see their children grow up and alarmingly, these days, telling it regularly. I write to thank Mr Duncan for his gentle patience as my world crashed before me, and to sing from the roof tops praise for the NHS, with its incredible staff who have looked after me and my family through these five months.

I was admitted to Norfolk and Norwich hospital where I underwent an 11-hour operation performed by surely the most handsome team of surgeons (all the nurses agree), and after a short stay in the high-dependency unit I arrived at the wonderful Cley ward for 20 days. I can’t begin to explain my thanks and gratitude to the staff of Cley. My condition was at times frightening and harrowing, but I was cared for with such expertise and vigilance that I have to share my experience and rejoice in the knowledge that their support has meant that I am now walking in my favourite woods again.

It amazes me that I am alive. I fully intend to remain so. Most women in the world do not have access to this level of expertise. Even in the US, on my income, my insurance probably would not have covered the operation and I don’t have a house to re-mortgage or funds to cover this unexpected disease. The x-rays, scans, medication, food, cleaning staff, porters that have been given to me because I’m British leave me speechless. We all know someone who has had a baby, broken an arm or has been seriously ill. Do we consider enough how lucky we are to see our GP for free? ”

I really want to say thank you for the kind way my decrepit body was washed; how, in the middle of the night when I felt overwhelmed, a nurse stopped what she was doing and held my hand; the cake covered in Smarties the catering staff brought me for my birthday; the smiles and jokes with the staff to pass the long days; and Mr Burbos (one of the handsome consultant surgeons) who has been so generous with his time and care. Thank you. I will be supporting the strikes to get better pay for nurses. They are intelligent, helpful, kind people, not money-grabbers. If they say their pay is unfair, I believe them.

About the author

Gael Mosesson is a musician and songwriter, performing original music to diverse audiences, and an outdoor educator at Ringsfield Hall in Suffolk, helping people reconnect with nature. She has three beautifully crazy teenagers and is in love with Magnus.


Staffing and compassion

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Will MPs vote to right some of the NHS wrongs?

A private member’s bill that proposes undoing the worst excesses of Andrew Lansley’s unpopular NHS reforms has caught a mood
Former health secretary Andrew Lansley. If the bill to repeal his reforms went through it would be ‘a parliamentary mea culpa of historic proportions’. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
This week the same MPs who voted Andrew Lansley’s unpopular Health and Social Care Act through parliament, despite the warnings that it would distract, weaken and potentially even wreck the NHS, have a chance to undo at least some of the damage that both Westminster and the NHS’s equivalents of the dogs in the street know it has done. On Friday they will debate and vote on Labour MP Clive Efford’s National Health Service (amended duties and powers) bill, a private member’s bill which will receive its second reading.
Among what Efford regards as the many ill-advised, reckless or self-evidently negative changes the 2012 Act involved, he has one key target – the huge expansion in competition it brought to the NHS, with a concomitant expansion in the privatisation of clinical services previously provided by the NHS.
“The bill wouldn’t repeal the entire Health and Social Care Act. But it cuts the heart out of it. It would repeal some of the worst elements of it that impose market forces on the NHS,” explains the MP for Eltham in south-east London, who is better known as the shadow sports minister. For example, it would replace the health sector regulator Monitor’s duty to promote tendering with an obligation to promote integration of services.
Its 14 clauses would also repeal “section 75”, the clause in Lansley’s legacy that enforces the compulsory tendering of all NHS contracts, which came into force last year. It removes the ability of hospitals to earn 49% of their income from private patients. New figures last weekend showed that such income has risen 10% overall since 2010 with, for example, the specialist Royal Brompton and Harefield trust growing its revenue from that source from £24.3m in 2010-11 to £33.6m in 2013-14.
It would also exempt the NHS from the EU-US trade treaty, currently being negotiated in secret, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which could open up NHS services to competition permanently, including from US healthcare firms. The coalition’s refusal to seek such an opt-out would be trumped by the new law specifying that TTIP does not affect the NHS. And it would restore the health secretary’s responsibility for the NHS, something Lansley watered down. Crucially, says Efford, his bill would reassert parliament’s sovereignty over the NHS.
The Royal College of Nursing, a persistent critic of Lansley’s “unnecessary and chaotic reorganisation”, has welcomed the bill as an opportunity to undo the damage. Lord Owen, the ex-Labour health secretary who tried to pilot two similar bills through last year, praises its “imaginative and constructive proposals”. The British Medical Association is broadly supportive, though worried that an over-powerful health secretary could introduce even more political interference in the NHS.
If it became law – few private member’s bills ever do – Efford’s bill would amount to a parliamentary mea culpa of historic proportions. If the coalition had made meaningful rather than cosmetic changes to Lansley’s law at the time, Efford’s effort would not be needed. But the admission by an unnamed cabinet minister last month that the act was this government’s greatest folly (quoted on the front page of the Times) and the fact that 44% of the public think the NHS is under threat from private health companies suggests Efford’s bill has caught a mood.
Efford says: “There will be plenty of Labour MPs in the Commons on Friday [a day MPs are usually in their constituences rather than Westminster] and I’ve got no indication that there’s a whipping operation to stop it, so the government has accepted that it can’t win the vote”.
Are any coalition MPs who backed Lansley’s bill likely to now back Efford’s? “Not so far. I suspect that they are all too embarrassed that they supported this incredibly unpopular piece of legislation that people want repealed,” he says.

You Can Build Aircraft But Can You Treat Patients?

From the Independent

Doctors have expressed dismay at reports that an international arms firm is considering a bid for a £1bn NHS contract to run GP support services in England.

American defence giant Lockheed Martin was one of a number of private companies represented at a recent meeting hosted by NHS England, for those interested in taking over the contract, which largely involves administrative functions.

G4S, whose handling of security at the London 2012 Olympics drew widespread criticism, also attended the meeting, as did KPMG and the US law firm DLA Piper. No potential NHS bidders attended, according to the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

The contract, which is likely to be awarded early next year, is one of the biggest ever put out to tender by the NHS.

Leading London GP Dr Louise Irvine told The Independent that it was “shocking” that an arms firm could be awarded such a major NHS contract, and warned that the company could profit from money “taken from front line care”.

“[It is] just as shocking that no NHS organisation was allowed to bid to provide these services, which are mainly back office support for General Practice,” said Dr Irvine, who is standing the general election for the National Health Action Party. “NHS administration systems, with years of experience, are being displaced by organisations that have little or no experience in providing these services.”

Dr Mark Porter, chair of the British Medical Association, said that the tender was “another worrying example of creeping privatisation in the NHS”.

Dr Mark Porter, head of the BMA Dr Mark Porter, head of the BMA (Justin Sutcliffe)
“How can it be in any way sensible to have a system in place which prevents NHS organisations providing some NHS support functions?” he said. “Doctors have repeatedly raised serious concerns over the continued emphasis on competition over integration, its failure to improve patient care, and the millions wasted on lawyers as commissioners struggle with the significant challenges that competitive tendering has introduced.”

As well as developing military hardware including the F-35 fighter plane, Lockheed Martin already provides IT services to several public sector organisations, and has worked with NHS providers before.

A Lockheed Martin UK spokesperson said: “Our UK workforce already delivers IT systems which protect and enhance our national industry, critical infrastructure and justice systems, enable NATS to navigate more than two million commercial flights safely across UK skies each year and ensure Royal Mail can reliably deliver more than fifty million items to our homes and office each day. We continue to explore further opportunities in the public sector.”

The 10-year contract is understood to be worth more than the current cost of running the services, which currently employ 1,600 people. Bidders have been told they will have to close some offices and invest in new technology, and should expect to bear some redundancy costs, the HSJ reported.

NHS England said it was too early in the contract tender process to comment.

The Myth of Intgegrated Care

Commission of inquiry says politicians have fallen for myth that integrating health and social care services is best way forward
Denis Campbell, health correspondent
The Guardian, Wednesday 19 November 2014

The NHS is expected to face a £30bn gap in its finances by 2020. Photograph: Graeme Robertson/Getty Images

Plans by the Westminster parties and the NHS leadership to safeguard the health service’s future constitute “magical thinking” that will not ensure its survival, a group of experts has said.
In a strongly worded critique, a commission of inquiry claims that both the coalition’s and Labour’s policies are not based on evidence and will not help the NHS to close the £30bn gap in its finances that is expected to open up by 2020.
Politicians of all parties have fallen for a myth that integrating health and social care services and moving many medical services out of hospitals represent the best way of keeping the NHS sustainable, they say.
The experts also accuse Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, of making a “heroic assumption” in pledging that the service will save £22bn a year by 2020 through extra efficiency after an overhaul of how patients receive care.
They claim that none of the three main parties’ recently announced NHS funding plans will prove sufficient and that all will leave a funding gap.
The findings constitute a stark challenge to the broad consensus about the best way to help the NHS withstand rising demand for healthcare while it also deals with an ongoing financial squeeze. They come from a year-long inquiry by the commission on hospital care for frail older people, set up by the Health Service Journal, which is widely read among senior NHS managers.
The group is chaired by Dame Julie Moore, the chief executive of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS foundation trust. The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has described the widely admired Moore as one of the NHS’s outstanding leaders.
Her co-authors include Prof John Appleby, chief economist of the King’s Fund health thinktank, and Prof David Oliver, a government health adviser, specialist in older people’s care and president of the British Geriatric Society.
Their report says: “There is a myth that providing more and better care for frail older people in the community, increasing integration between health and social care services and pooling health and social care budgets will lead to significant, cashable financial savings in the acute hospital sector and across health economies. The commission found no evidence that these assumptions are true.”
It urges political parties and NHS leaders to “avoid wishful thinking that improving intermediate and community care, while perhaps the right thing to do, will automatically mean we can disinvest significantly in hospitals.”
The government is pressing ahead with its Better Care Fund, which from next April will move £1.9bn from hospitals’ £40bn budget into schemes in the community intended to keep patients, especially frail older people and the 15 million patients with long-term conditions, healthier at home.
Labour plans to go further, if elected, by fully integrating health and social care services to provide “whole-person care”, with the same twin aims of better looking after patients and saving money.
But the commission decries both. “Improving community care may postpone the need for hospital care, but it will make frail older people neither invincible nor immortal; mostly, they will simply need the care later,” the report says. The available evidence is at best inconsistent or negative about integration’s potential to save money, it adds.
Moore said the already variable and sometimes poor quality of care experienced by older patients could deteriorate if the NHS did not urgently rethink its planned direction of travel.
“As much as it suits us all to have one nice neat solution to the problem of our growing, ageing population – and the current policy has certainly become the accepted wisdom on the matter – the truth is that as a catch-all answer it is simply wishful thinking. Integrated community care is a good thing and we need more of it and innovative approaches, but this can never be a substitution for hospital care.”
The Royal College of Nursing said integration “cannot be relied upon as a quick-fix to the problems facing the health service”, and existing community services had recently been reduced.
An NHS England spokeswoman said: “It is critical that we get care right, not just because an ageing population is a challenge the NHS must face but the frail older people of today are the public who have paid for the NHS throughout their lives. Their contribution, hard work and belief have sustained the NHS. They should always feel it continues to offer the best for them.”
The Department of Health defended its drive to integrate services. “Moving the NHS from a system of cure to prevention is better for patients and better value for money,” it said.

KONP Updates 10/11/14

NHS finances ‘absolutely on the knife edge’.
 The health service is “absolutely on the knife edge” with no reserve left to cushion against  unforeseen pressures, NHS England officials have warned. Speaking at the organisation’s board meeting yesterday, chief finance officer Paul Baumann said there was “no reserve left which will cater for things which we haven’t anticipated in the risk and mitigation analysis we’ve done”. He described 2014-15 as “the year in which we are absolutely on the knife edge of balancing or not balancing against the position we’ve got”.   At month six he said the NHS was £184m off-plan, which accounted for 0.2 per cent of its total budget. The figures are “to be taken seriously, but not a vast deviation” from where the health service is expected to be”, he explained. Mr Baumann said the health service has “overall a good chance of squaring its [financial] position in most foreseeable scenarios through to the end of the year”. He said it was “really, really important that we contain our expenditure”, but “at the moment I can see ways in which it should be possible to do that”. “What I can’t guarantee is that there will be nothing that transpires between now and the end of the year that I wasn’t expecting, either in terms of activity trends going faster than we’ve got in the forecast, or any other calamities or disasters,” he warned.In other years it might have been possible to say don’t worry about that too much, because I’ve got a reserve over here of a couple of hundred million that will deal with the inevitable bumps and turns that the NHS throws up in the course of given year.

Bedford refuses to sign Circle MSK contract.
 An NHS hospital has pledged to compete with Circle Partnership, the private provider appointed to run Bedfordshire’s £120m integrated musculoskeletal service, after refusing to become its subcontractor, HSJ can reveal. Bedford Hospital Trust has refused to sign the contract after seeing the number of MSK referrals plunge 30 per cent after Circle took over the service in April. The trust claims the service’s arrangement “endangers the viability” of its trauma and accident and emergency services and could undermine its capacity to retain the seven trauma surgeons it employs. Circle was awarded the five year “prime provider” contract by Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group in April. The deal consolidates 20 separate contracts into a single service and gave Circle the role of running it. Bedford Hospital’s board papers say it “would not be in the trust’s best interests to sign a contract without any mitigation to the consequent impact on trauma and linked services.The significant reduction in referrals since April, and associated potential loss of income (assuming these convert to elective work) mean a direct impact on the viability of the trauma service which in turn will undermine the ability of A&E to see and admit trauma patients,” they say.


The risk of fraud in the new NHS: lessons from the USA and the need for a response in England. 
The NHS’s embarrassing failure to prevent large-scale malpractice by Serco in its out-of-hours contract in Cornwall has raised in a very public way the question of the Department of Health’s strategy for countering the risk of fraud posed by contracts with private providers. The issue has been taken up extensively in the media, reinforced by the Home Office’s even more embarrassing failure to notice that Serco and G4S had billed it for almost £200 for tagging prisoners who had already been released or had even died. The Department of Health, however, has remained silent. In July the Health Service Journal reported, based on a leaked document, that the Department of Health was planning ‘to establish its own fraud investigation function by poaching senior officers from NHS Protect, shrinking the national body’s size significantly as a result’. But the Department declined to comment and has made no further statement on the issue. The Cornwall case, however, and the reported problems of quality cuts and overbilling in Serco’s contract for diagnostic tests at Guy’s and Thomas’ hospitals in London, illustrate the way opportunities for both errors and fraud become much greater with complex and lengthy contracts. This is especially true of contracts with multifarious performance requirements linked to payments, which are typical of NHS clinical outsourcing contracts. This creates multiple opportunities for mistakes to be made which can often lead to overcharging. However, added to this complexity is the influence of profit.


Third of CCGs have requested powers to police GP contracts. 
A third of CCG leaders have requested new powers to performance manage the GP contract, in a radical move that could see them taking contractual action against their member practices. A Pulse analysis of proposals submitted by 145 CCGs in June found that 32% had signalled they wanted to take on performance management of the GP contract. At least 15% of CCGs said they wanted to take over complete control of the GMS contract from NHS England and 60% said they wanted a role with regards to PMS contracts, including negotiation of terms and PMS reviews. The analysis shows that local commissioners across the country are keen to take control of huge chunks of the GP budget, when they are given the green light in April next year. NHS Leicester City CCG said that a survey of member practices and the public showed that 53% supported CCG taking on a performance management role and deciding on sanctions, while NHS Surrey Downs CCG said that ‘performance measurement tools’ would demonstrate that ‘new innovations are not impacting on core service delivery’. CCGs are expected to submit their final co-commissioning applications to local area teams in January, with the intention for level two commissioning to begin from 1 March and level three from April. But the Pulse analysis gives the first indication of what additional powers they may be asking for.

Mail Online

Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson bids to take over cancer and end of life care in NHS privatisation deal worth £1.2billion. 
Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson is bidding to take over cancer and end of life care on the NHS in a privatisation deal worth more than £1.2 billion, it emerged today. The tycoon is looking to secure a controversial £689 million contract to provide treatment for terminally ill patients at four NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). It will be the first time cancer care in the NHS has ever been privatised and the move has been described as the health service’s biggest ever outsourcing of resources. The deal would see the private sector delivering all cancer and end-of-life treatment for children and adults across Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent. On Wednesday the four CCGs involved – which care for more than 767,000 patients – announced which organisations have pre-qualified for the 10-year contracts. Five bidders, including Sir Richard’s Virgin Care Ltd, have now been short-listed for cancer care-while seven companies, including Virgin Care Ltd, are in the running for end-of-life services.
Tuesday 11th November 2014

Cambridge News
·         Hinchingbrooke Hospital: Unison calls for health firm Circle to be ‘sacked’.

A union is calling on the NHS to end the controversial contract which put private health firm Circle in charge of Hinchingbrooke Hospital. Unison, the biggest health union which represents staff at the Huntingdon hospital, said Hinchingbrooke was facing penalty payments running into hundreds of thousands of pounds for missing targets. But Circle said the union had misinterpreted the figures and offered to meet representatives to discuss the situation. Tracey Lambert, Unison’s regional head of health, said: “It is time for NHS England to step in and sack Circle. The whole franchise has been a farce from the beginning. The franchising experiment is now damaging staff, patients and the reputation of a previously well-respected local hospital.” Circle was brought in to run the hospital which had been branded a “basket case” with £40 million debts. The union said papers for the Hinchingbrooke health trust’s October meeting showed potential penalties of up to £200,000 a month for failure to meet targets for patients waiting longer than four hours in the accident and emergency department, more big penalties for failing to reach electronic discharge summary targets which already stand at £138,000 and £150,000 for failing to increase the number of patients discharged at weekends. Unison said the trust estimated that contract penalties and deductions could add up to £1.6 million over a full year, a further £800,000 could be clawed back if the trust lost out on validation of invoices and that a rising caseload in accident and emergency could trigger more penalties. It said this could push Circle’s support payment above a £5 million ceiling which could trigger a renegotiation of the contract or Circle’s withdrawal. Unison also said that staff were demoralised and leaving, with a turnover of more than 13 per cent. It said spending on agency staff could reach £2.4 million by the end of the year. Unison is calling for the hospital to be taken over by the Trust Development Agency and returned to professional NHS managers. But a spokesman for Circle said: “We would be happy to meet with Unison as we are sure this is an honest misinterpretation of Circle’s track record.”

Read more …
Huddersfield Examiner
·         Private firms battling for £284,000,000 NHS deal for Huddersfield and Kirklees.

NHS activists in Huddersfield have said there “is no place for private profit in the provision of health and social care” and called on Kirklees and Calderdale councils to use their powers to stop the tendering process. A host of private health firms are battling for a £284m NHS contract for Kirklees. Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group (GHCCG) and North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group (NKCCG) have embarked on a project to overhaul how health services are provided. They have now put out the multi-million tender for the so called “Care Closer to Home” community health services. NHS activists in Huddersfield have said there “is no place for private profit in the provision of health and social care” and called on Kirklees and Calderdale councils to use their powers to stop the tendering process. The new scheme will expand on the services currently provided by Batley-based community nursing firm Locala, whose contract expires in March next year. The CCGs held a “market sounding” open day for potential providers last week in a bid to probe what services could be provided as part of the £284m contract. The identities of companies competing for the five to seven year deal are not being revealed for commercial reasons. NHS organisations such as Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (CHFT), which runs the hospitals, are also allowed to compete for the lucrative deal. CHFT recently lost a contract to continue to run wheelchair services for Kirklees and Calderdale after it was undercut by private firm Opcare by several million pounds.

Read more …
·         NHS facing £700m black hole over failing Better Care Fund.

A pioneering plan to save the health service £1 billion a year by keeping patients out of hospital has been branded a “shambles” after the Government’s spending watchdog found at best it would save less than a third of the amount projected at best. In a highly critical report, the National Audit Office said proposals to transfer nearly £2 billion of NHS funding to social care in a bid to reduce hospital admissions had been inadequately thought through and could have left the health service with a massive budget black hole. It added the plans had been based on “optimism rather than evidence”. Even after the scheme was redesigned to reduce the financial risk to the NHS, the NAO said it was still far from convinced that the Better Care Fund would result in its primary aim of reducing emergency admissions to hospital. The report is embarrassing for ministers as the Better Care Fund is seen as critical to the Government’s attempt to control rising healthcare costs, reduce waiting times for operations and plug the gaps in social care resulting from cuts to council budgets. But the NAO found early local plans for the fund, which will pool £5.3 billion of existing NHS and local authority funding from next year, would only deliver £55 million of deliverable financial savings compared to the £1 billion factored in by the Treasury.

Read more …
Thursday 13th November 2014

Nursing Times
·         NHS ‘not for sale’ boards go up in protest at international trade talks.

Campaigners are to erect estate agency-style boards across the country today, as part of protests against a controversial trade deal. Houses in nine constituencies will display the boards opposing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. Groups, including the Royal College of Nursing, have previously claimed that the deal would lead to more privatisation of health services and argued that the NHS should be excluded from any agreement. In the latest move, campaign group People’s NHS has erected “stop the sale” boards. Spokesman Brian Colman said: “Thousands of households across the UK are delivering a clear message by raising ‘stop the sale signs’ outside their homes in protest over the sell-off of their health services and David Cameron’s refusal to veto the NHS from the dangerous trade deal called TTIP. David Cameron never told us on the campaign trail in 2010 that his party was going to embark on the mass privatisation of the NHS. The government had no mandate to sell off the NHS,” he said. “This is a clear message to our MP and to the government that it’s time to take the ‘for sale’ sign down from our hospitals and GP services and put our cherished NHS back into public hands,” he added.

Read more …
GP Online
·         Practices to be paid £16 per appointment for out-of-area patients.

Practices will be awarded £15.87 per in-hours GP consultation and £60 per home visit for patients registered away from where they live, under the out-of-area registration DES. The enhanced service, designed by NHS England, will support the updated choice of GP practice arrangements that will be introduced from 5 January 2015. From this date, all practices will be able to register patients who live outside of their traditional boundaries, without being required to provide home visits or out-of-hours care. Practices will not be obliged to participate in the scheme, and will remain able to refuse registrations from out-of-area patients. They will also not be obliged to offer home visits for patients registered elsewhere. The GPC warned it had ‘lots of concerns’ about the plans and said practices would have to ‘carefully consider’ whether the remuneration on offer was ‘enough to cover their costs’. NHS England expects around 0.4% of the population – 200,000 people – to register with a practice outside of their local area, ‘although this might grow over time’. Any patient who requires ‘urgent and local care’ and cannot reasonably travel to their out-of-area practice will be able to access primary medical services nearer their home, under the new enhanced service. Practices participating in the DES will be expected to provide home visits to registered out-of-area patients in their appointed boundary area, where it is clinically required. If any practice chooses not to sign up for the DES, neighbouring practices that have signed up may have to provide services for wider areas. Patients registered out-of-area will be given a review to decide whether it would be more appropriate for them to be registered with a practice nearer their home, should they arrange at least four consultations under the DES within a 12-month period. This will also be triggered if they receive two home visits within the same period. GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Those practices that have lost patients, but are then invited to look after them again when they are too sick to travel to their new practice, will have understandable concerns about doing so.’

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Exeter Express and Echo
·         A letter from Ben Bradshaw: Worrying health cuts on horizon.

The size of the financial black hole facing the NHS in Devon – £430 million – is staggering. That is more than 5% of the total £8bn national funding shortfall the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, recently warned would hit the NHS in the next Parliament if the next Government fails to act. The consequences for Devon are here already: worrying proposals to ration some services and end or close others completely. Now Devon Clinical Commissioning Group – the body now responsible for commissioning or “buying” services on behalf of the public, is planning to deny operations to people who are overweight or smoke, restrict treatment for varicose veins, only allow cataract operations in one eye and end all IVF treatment for couples desperate to have children. National guidance from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence says people should be entitled to three courses of IVF. The CCG is also proposing to close our very popular and well used Walk-In Centre in Sidwell Street. This, despite the fact it has seen big increases in patients every year since it opened and it reduces pressure on our hard pressed A& E and local GPs. I haven’t spoken to a single local GP who thinks closing the Walk-In Centre is a good idea. They also tell me that the weight criteria proposed for operations would, in some cases, affect more than half of their patients and even some GPs themselves. The national Royal College of Surgeons has condemned the plan as “unacceptable”. We also had the decision by North Devon NHS, who, under the new structures, run community services in Exeter, to centralise stroke services in Ottery St Mary, not Exeter. Everyone agrees it makes sense to have stroke services as close to the RD& E as possible, yet now stroke patients and their families from as far away as Okehampton are going to have to trek to Ottery.

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·         NHS must use fewer temporary staff and sell land to save £10bn, says Hunt.

Jeremy Hunt is to tell the NHS to save £10bn a year by using fewer temporary staff and management consultants, selling off unused buildings and reducing drug errors. The health secretary will warn an audience of NHS leaders on Thurday that the service must undertake a “fundamental rethink” of how it spends its £110bn budget in order to remain viable in the face of unprecedented demand for care. He will demand action to tackle the soaring cost of hospitals’ use of temporary staff – mainly nurses – who have been supplied by employment agencies to cover shifts in order to ensure wards are fully-staffed and patients receive good quality care. The bill has risen by £1bn under the coalition to almost £2.5bn a year as hospitals have increasingly struggled to recruit enough staff at a time of greater scrutiny of care standards and demands to provide “safe staffing”.Speaking to the Guardian, Hunt said: “[Then NHS chief executive] David Nicholson came up with the ‘Nicholson Challenge’ in 2009 to save £20bn by 2015. That has more or less been delivered. We now need to have a £22bn ‘Forward View challenge’.” However, while freezing staff pay and awarding them 1% pay rises has helped deliver that £20bn, Hunt said that saving the extra £10bn would have to come through innovation and greater use of technology to improve healthcare.

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·         Film shows Nigel Farage calling for move away from state-funded NHS.

Nigel Farage has been caught on camera telling Ukip supporters that the state-funded NHS should move towards an insurance-based system run by private companies. The recording shows Farage saying he believes the marketplace could deliver better value for money when it comes to spending on the NHS. Farage’s remarks, made in September 2012 on his Common Sense tour of the UK, contrast with Ukip’s new claims that it is opposed to privatisation of the NHS. The Guardian examined videos of Farage touring the country in an effort to establish some of the Ukip leader’s views on issues other than immigration or Europe. Other footage showed him proposing that the BBC should not be completely dismantled but slimmed down to concentrate on radio rather than television, with a licence fee slashed to £40 or £50. He also suggested that benefit claimants could be made to clean up litter after six months, and that there was a big problem with employee rights and protections such as maternity leave for small firms. However, his comments about the NHS were the most striking, leading Labour to claim it was now “plain for all to see that a vote for Ukip is a vote for the privatisation of the NHS”. Speaking at a meeting in East Sussex, Farage said: “Frankly, I would feel more comfortable that my money would return value if I was able to do that through the market place of an insurance company than just us trustingly giving £100bn a year to central government and expecting them to organise the healthcare service from cradle to grave for us. But a Ukip spokesman said the NHS was an area where the party’s policy has developed the most over the past few years and Farage’s comments in East Sussex no longer represented his views. He also pointed out Ukip had taken the radical step of aligning with the trade unions to oppose TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) – a US-EU trade deal that its opponents say could allow American private health firms into the NHS. Farage’s party fought the Heywood & Middleton byelection and is battling to win Rochester & Strood next week on a platform of protecting the NHS. However, Labour has pointed out in its leaflets that Ukip MEP Paul Nuttall posted a letter on his website a few years ago praising the coalition for bringing a “whiff of privatisation to the NHS”.

Read more …
Keep Our NHS Public 14/11/2014

Frome Times

Protect our NHS new Frome group launched to save the local NHS.
 A ‘Protect Our NHS’ group has been launched  in the town and is already gaining wide support.  Local campaigns have been set up in cities and communities across England and Wales to defend what they see as the growing privatisation of the publicly-owned and publicly-accountable NHS. Now, support has gathered enough locally for a Frome ‘Protect our NHS’ group to be formed. Last week Mike Campbell, coordinator of the Bristol ‘Protect our NHS’ group, joined the audience at the Westway Cinema to see Ken Loach’s ‘Spirit of ’45’ and to support the launch of a ‘Protect Our NHS’ group in Frome. Mike said, “It is fantastic that towns such as Frome with its local community hospital are forming campaigning groups. “It’s essential that local community NHS services are defended as they are equally vulnerable to privatisation. Many of us close to the health service believe that bad press is also deliberately orchestrated by the government to undermine the service’s credibility.” The Frome group is being supported by the mayor, cllr Peter Macfadyen, who believes that Frome is “fantastically” served by the NHS and the Frome Medical Practice. Rebecca Yea from Frome is also supporting the new group. She said, “The group is still forming but the support from the town has been very encouraging and it seems there is a lot of people who want to be involved. At the recent Ken Loach talk more than 100 people showed an interest.

The Independent

Hospitals and A&Es to get extra £300m to combat ‘unprecedented’ winter pressure.
 Suffers of coughs and colds are being urged to visit their high street pharmacy instead of using their GP or attending their local A&E unit, as part of plan to help the NHS manage unsustainable pressures this winter. The call for patients to take the pressure off doctors came as the Health Secretary announced that hospitals and A&E units across England will receive £300m to help see them through “unprecedented extra demand” this winter. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the new funding could provide the equivalent of up to 1,000 extra doctors, 2,000 extra nurses and 2,500 extra bed spaces. With many A&E units already running at “full stretch”, the injection of funds and call for patients to turn to their pharmacies reflects ongoing anxiety among health officials that the NHS is set to face a challenging winter with rising levels of flu and ward closures from norovirus outbreaks. Mr Hunt said: “Winter has always been particularly challenging for the NHS. We have been thinking about it particularly hard this year because of the growing pressure on A&E departments. ”Emergency admissions are growing about three to four per cent year in, year out. We are very aware that over this winter there is going to be some real pressure there.”

The Guardian

The National Audit Office’s (NAO) forensic dissection of the Better Care Fund fiasco is a harsh lesson in the dangers of ministerial interference in health and care systems under stress.
 Its report Planning for the Better Care Fund – published this week – exposes how the government mishandled the entire project. The fund was the coalition’s gambit in the battle with Labour over who would integrate the NHS and social care. Launched as a flagship policy in the 2013 Autumn Statement, it was a triumph of presentation over strategic thinking – big, bold, long on rhetoric, short on delivery detail and recycling old money as extra funding. It soon hit trouble. NHS England and the Local Government Association (LGA) published guidance on how it would work that December, and all local areas submitted bids by April on how they would spend their cut in 2015-16. Ministers then scrapped the guidance, dumped the bids and restarted the whole process. The broken wire at the heart of the machine was that the Department of Health and NHS England were planning on securing £1bn of savings on the back of the £3.8bn Better Care Fund, but robust thinking to achieve this was not put at the core of guidance for the 151 local bids.

Hospital Doctor

“Clinical need not cost should determine routine NHS surgery”.
 A royal college has called on NHS England to investigate a CCG which is proposing to limit access to surgical services. Devon CCG has said it will deny routine surgery to smokers and the morbidly obese unless they quit or lose weight. The GP-led Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group says the measures are “urgent and necessary” as it faces a £14.5m deficit and needs to reduce costs. However, Miss Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “Access to routine surgery should always be based on an individual’s clinical need. “The government has been clear that restricting clinically necessary treatment on the basis of financial considerations is unacceptable. We urge the Department of Health and NHS England to review the situation in Devon if the CCG is indeed intending to deny patients treatment without enabling the clinicians and patients involved to make informed choices about their care.” Rebecca Harriott, the Devon CCG chief officer, said it would be prioritising services in the NHS Constitution. The group says hernia treatment, botox injections and cataract operations are also under review. Ms Harriott said: “We must act to protect essential services through our busiest winter months and ensure that care is there for our patients when they really need it.


This morning Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told NHS leaders that the service must undertake a ‘fundamental rethink’ of how it spends its £110bn budget.
 He has warned that the NHS needs to save £10bn a year by using fewer temporary staff and management consultants. Just how much NHS leaders are spending on, for example, management consultants is something that Hunt knows, but we don’t… yet. NHS England, unlike all other government agencies, does not make public how it spends our money. A petition launched this week, which has so far been signed by 68,000 people, is demanding that NHS England publishes its spending data without delay. (It said it would publish its receipts in September, then October. It has yet to). This would reveal how much of NHS funds are going on management consultants, lawyers, accountants, PR campaigns and private healthcare companies. Is Hunt trying to distance himself from NHS England by calling now for a “fundamental rethink” of how it spends our money? Hunt cannot absolve himself of responsibility, however. It was the reforms brought in by this government that created NHS England, stewards of the NHS budget. The policies it has since pursued have been set out and encouraged by the Coalition. Whatever NHS England is doing with our money is Hunt’s responsibility. We just now need to find out what Hunt knows and we don’t. Sign the petition here.

KONP Updartes

The Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance is holding a demonstration in Truro–noon, Lemon Quay–to back the Efford Bill, which is an attempt to rescue the NHS from wholesale privatisation. Demonstrations are scheduled across the country on that date.
Keep Our NHS Public 07/11/2014
NHS bailouts under fire in ‘deeply alarming’ NAO study. Government bailouts for financially troubled hospitals have come under fire from a Whitehall spending watchdog in a report laying bare the deteriorating financial state of the NHS. The National Audit Office report found the “worsening” position and “growing financial stress” experienced by hospitals made the health service unsustainable as a public service. Its analysis found trusts expect to receive £2.2bn more than healthcare commissioners plan to spend in 2015-16 – a funding gap predicted to quadruple to almost £9bn by 2018-19. NAO comptroller and auditor general Amyas Morse described the “growing trend” for NHS trusts to fall into deficit as “not sustainable”. “Until the department can explain how it will work with bodies such as NHS England, Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority to address underlying financial pressures, quickly and without resorting to cash support, we cannot be confident that value for money will be achieved over the next five years HSJ

Private GP providers will have to publish pay.
GMS contract requirements to make GPs publish their pay will also be placed upon any primary care providers commissioned by NHS England or CCGs, including private APMS practices, NHS England has said. At the NHS England board meeting on Thursday, national director of commissioning strategy Ian Dodge laid out measures for the co-commissioning of primary care and said it was important for CCGs to ensure ‘consistency across different contractual reforms’, specifically citing the publishing of pay. His comments were made as part of the discussion on what co-commissioning involves, which also revealed that NHS England would be publishing statutory guidance on CCGs avoiding potential conflicts of interest. Pulse

Stop transatlantic trade deal threatening NHS.
A free trade agreement between the European Union and USA is designed to meet the interests of corporations rather than patients and must be stopped in its tracks. This is the conclusion of an editorial in The BMJ this week. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a series of trade negotiations currently being carried out – in secret – between the EU and US. John Hilary, executive director of campaign group War on Want, says its main aim is to reduce regulatory barriers to trade for businesses on both sides of the Atlantic and includes things like food safety rules, environmental legislation and banking regulations. Public services like the NHS are also to be opened up to competition under TTIP. Hilary warns that the market liberalisation introduced by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act “ensures it will be effectively impossible to take the NHS back into public hands if the EU-US deal goes through”. Furthermore, he says both the UK government and the European Commission “have confirmed that TTIP’s investor protection provisions would grant US corporations the power to sue any future administration over such a move”. Hospital Doctor

The NHS five year forward view – a wish-list for privatisers?
Stevens’ “Five Year Forward View”, published last week by NHS England, is a collaboration between the six main organisations now running the NHS – Monitor, Health Education England, the NHS Trust Development Authority, Public Health England, the Care Quality Commission and NHS England itself. The “5 year Forward View” reads like a wish-list for further privatisation of the NHS. It may ‘pack a punch‘ for the BBC – which has throttled mainstream media discussion of NHS privatisation. But talk of ‘accountable care organisations’, as developed in Spain and the United States, and the emphasis on preventive health packages so keenly sold by multinational corporates, are paradigmatic of a privatisation plan. The document is a naked shill, intended to carry on the ‘case for change’ made exhaustively by think tanks such as the King’s Fund. Such organisations were instrumental in giving the catastrophic policy of market competition in the National Health Service some legs in the first place. Take, for example, the seemingly-modest proposal of “integrated care commissioning”. In the full glare of sunlight, the policy of personal budgets looks incredibly anaemic. A big unanswered question is how a universal health system is going to be successfully merged with a means-tested social care system. NHS England tried, unsuccessfully to head this issue off at the pass as far back as 2012. Personal health budgets, which Simon Stevens is busy quietly rolling out, are the perfect vehicle for merging the two systems in a way that introduces ‘top ups’ and ‘co-payments’, threatening the fundamental principle of universal, free-at-the-point-of-need. Our NHS
The shape of things to come (Ed).Dover Medical Practice to close as private firm pulls out. Almost 3,500 patients have been told they will have to find a new doctor because their surgery is closing. Concordia Health, the private medical group which manages the Dover Medical Practice in Kent, told NHS England that it was bringing its contract to an end. Dr Ricky Allen, a GP at the practice, said it would leave a lot of vulnerable people without access to a local GP. Concordia Health, which also pulled out of a practice in Broadstairs earlier this year, has not commented. BBC News

Managing Consultation

How the NHS and Government are “managing” Public Consultation

by protectournhs

The following is the summary of a paper written by Ursula Pearce in October 2014 on the way in which public consultation is currently being ‘managed’ by the NHS. A link to the full article can be found at the bottom of the piece.


The type of public engagement preferred by NHS organisations and the Cabinet Office is the involvement of individual patients or individual members of the public – in marginal decision making and on management terms. A more democratic approach seemed possible in 2013 when NHS England published guidance stating people should be directly involved in decisions about who should provide services. However, that guidance was soon altered. It now refers to patient representation on panels and their need for support and training, not consultation with the general public. Individual participants, as discussed, have no means of redress when their views are ignored. So engagement with them allows managers to operate unhindered while, paying lip service to public accountability and consultation. The NHS Constitution, meanwhile, gives individual patients or members of the public the right to claim judicial review if they are personally affected by an illegal or discriminatory decision. But recent moves by the government to limit the number of judicial reviews make it increasingly difficult for them to do so.

Opposing policies such as the above, where statutory rights are given by one hand and removed or weakened by the other, are now widespread. Local authorities or OSCs, the last remnants of democracy in the NHS, have the right to require NHS Foundation trusts, private sector providers and CCGs to provide them with information but they have no enforcement powers, outside the formal consultation process, or visiting rights to enable them to seek information for themselves. They have the right to be consulted on proposals for substantial changes but it is becoming more onerous for them to refer objections to the Secretary of State. Moreover, the duty on NHS organisations to consult with OSCs is shrinking. There is no formal requirement for commissioners to involve LAs/OSCs in deciding whether to classify services as commissioner requested services or not. Changes to or closures of services deemed ‘non-commissioner requested’ or ‘non–essential’, by definition, would not trigger a requirement for consultation even though such services may be valued or needed by patients. OSCs do not have a right to be consulted on Foundation Trust plans to increase private patient income or make significant transactions or mergers, acquisitions and separations or to form joint businesses with the private sector, all of which could pose a significant risk to local services. Foundation Trust governors, alone have the power to approve them. Yet OSCs are far better placed than FT governors to assess the implications of such decisions for the wider health economy. The duty to consult LAs or OSCs does not apply when Trusts go bankrupt and are taken into special administration. The amendment to clause 118 of the Care Bill was rightly viewed as a triumph by campaigners. It requires administrators to consult with every CCG likely to be affected by their recommendations, not just the CCGs attached to the failing trust, and provides some scope for public consultation. However, the amendment leaves a basic loophole intact, namely, when administrators and CCGs cannot agree, NHS England, not the CCGs or public opinion, has the final say.

Local Healthwatch organisations – the official ‘consumer champions’ – are constrained similarly. Healthwatch members have the sole right to visit and inspect health service premises on behalf of local residents. They can report their findings to Healthwatch England and NHS organisations but are forbidden by law to use the information to oppose government policies or engage in policy work. They may campaign if they have enough evidence but only if it is kept as a minor activity. Equally odd, is the Secretary of State’s refusal to provide Healthwatch members with the right to information or the right to attend CCG board meetings as observers. Healthwatch members have a duty to provide the public with information and help patients exercise choice. Yet they may have to use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain official information for themselves. Another key role for Healthwatch organisations is to gather the views and experiences of patients and feed these back to Healthwatch England, the Local Authority, OSCs and NHS organisations. Yet Healthwatch members cannot make use of their own knowledge in public consultations as they do not have a statutory right to be consulted. Instead, Healthwatch committees have been subsumed into the planning process by virtue of their single seat on Health and Wellbeing Boards. In practice, far from being ‘consumer champions’, Healthwatch organisations are the equivalent of a government smoke screen, engaging the public in a minor way, while fundamental changes to the NHS, including privatisation and its consequences, remain hidden from view.

A prerequisite for accountability to operate is a free flow of information to ensure citizens have the knowledge to scrutinise and challenge the decisions and acts of those in power (Ref 4). However, under the Freedom of Information Act, information can be withheld on the grounds of commercial confidentiality. Contracts between NHS bodies and commercial firms are shrouded in secrecy. As a result, consultation documents are bereft of essential information, so that consultees cannot make an informed response even if they wish to.

Moreover, contracts with private firms leave patients with less information to choose where to be treated. This irony and the fact many patients may be too ill to choose fosters not only spurious competition but health inequalities, as shown in the recent Labour Party Parliamentary health committee review. An absurdity at the heart of government policy is the ideological belief that privatisation and competition promote choice, improve services and reduce health inequalities.

Ominously, profit hungry commissioning support firms are coming together in groups to bid for lucrative NHS contracts. One shadowy commissioning support group, chaired by United Health, the giant US health insurer, is currently lobbying NHS England strongly for a contract worth £1 billion, even to the extent of taking NHS officials on a fact finding trip to the US. When so much tax payers money is at stake, it is, perhaps, not surprising that CCGs are taking major decisions in closed sessions and disengaging from local accountability mechanisms, as reported by Healthwatch organisations. The decision of the Secretary of State to refuse Healthwatch representatives an observer seat on CCG committees reinforces the view that deals with private firms are being struck in secret. The prescient words of historian Charles Webster spring to mind “local communities and their representatives are likely to count for little when it comes to appeasing corporate interests” (Guardian May 8th 2002).

There may still be time to save the NHS and restore democractic accountability. People of all political persuasions, in England, as well as Scotland, support the health service and do not want it handed over to profit driven private firms. And irrespective of how hard the government works behind the scenes to curtail statutory rights, it cannot remove the power of the public to vote politicians out of office at the ballot box. That power, above all, explains the politicians fear of exposure, their drive to hide information and to privatise by stealth. Thanks to the persistence and direct action of campaigners, however, news of NHS privatisation is getting out, hopefully in time to influence public opinion and galvanise grassroots support before the general election in 2015. Effective grassroots campaigners have shown they have the power to jolt and influence politicians out of their complacency. The survival of the NHS rests in their hands.

Ursula Pearce
October 2014

Full Article:

Save Our NHS

est Briton Newspaper – Truro

From “Keep our NHS Public Cornwall”

C/O, Press Secretary, Chris Dayus, 7 Lychgate Drive, Truro, TR1 3UE.

Title – End NHS Privatisation.

Since the coalition government passed the Health & Social Care Bill, there has been an explosion of privatisation across the NHS.

In Cornwall we have direct experience of the Private sector.  Running car parking at RCHT, making profit from those who have no choice but to pay extortionate prices to park at the hospitals. Serco, running the G.P. “Out of hours” service. During the life of the contract they have generated a catalogue of problems and incidents, clearly evidencing poor quality of services to patients.  The Patient Treatment Centre in Bodmin, badged as an NHS treatment centre is actually run by Ramsay Healthcare. Community Health Services across Cornwall are provided by Peninsula Community Health, a social Enterprise.

Most recently we have seen the transfer of ambulance patient transport services to NSL and Hotel Services to Mitie a private equity company. Both NSL and Mitie have recently featured in the news as providing poor service to patients and even worse, reportedly compromising patient safety.

This is evidence that the private sector do not improve services for patients, their objective is to provide profits for shareholders.

On the 21 November MP’s are being given the chance to support a private members bill. If passed it would end many of the damaging aspects of the “top down” reorganisation of the NHS. It would remove the requirement to put services out to competition and promote integration to provide improved patient care.

We urge readers to support this move to save the NHS, and end private profits. Please lobby your MP to support the Bill and the NHS they claim to value.

Also sign the online petition being run by the TUC at www.unionstogether.org which also has further information and details of events being organised on the 15 November in support of the Bill.

Your Friendly Boots

From Our NHS    Guddi Singh   26 August 2914various_pills[1]

Britain’s trusted high street chemist hasn’t been feeling well of late – and it’s getting sicker.

The brainchild of agricultural worker John Boot in 1849, the Nottingham herbalist store rapidly grew from humble beginnings into the country’s largest chemists’ chain. By revolutionizing access to affordable medicines in the pre-NHS era, Boots became a household name.

Since 1948 it has retained its central place in the functioning of the NHS. It is the largest single employer of NHS-trained pharmacists (6700) and pharmacy technicians (2500) outside of the NHS.

Pharmacy has long-been held up by the pro-privatisation lobby as an example of how the private sector has in fact been providing NHS services for years, ‘playing nicely’.

Boots made its name on providing patient care to millions. For 165 years it had what other companies would do almost anything for: the trust of its customers. Repeatedly named as one of the UK’s most trusted brands, Boots symbolised reliability and quality, securing a prominent and enduring position amongst our national retail heritage.

But times have changed. In 2006, Boots UK merged with European pharmacy wholesaler Alliance Unichem Plc to become Alliance Boots. And just one year later, the company went private in a £12 billion buyout led by US private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR).

That’s when the fairytale took a dark twist. KKR is one of the largest private equity firms in the world, ranking with the likes of Goldman Sachs and Bain Capital. KKR and its fellow private equity beasts don’t want to be passive investors, but to take the reins of the business and use their controlling position to restructure the company before ‘flipping’ their assets and selling off at a profit.

Now, KKR is selling its remaining stake in Boots to what will now become the biggest pharmacy chain in the world, US-based Walgreens. The complex deal is not likely to undo the damage inflicted by eight years of being one of the largest private equity buyouts in Europe. Walgreens have already said they will make $1billion of efficiency savings – or cuts – as a result of the deal, with no guarantees on protecting pharmacist and other staff numbers.

And for the last eight years, Boots has taken advantage of the private equity model that allows it to operate with far more secrecy and less regulation in its business dealings, than do publicly listed companies.

The impact on Boots values during this time has been stark. A recent example was its decision by Boots to sell e-cigarettes despite warnings from the Royal Pharmacological Society (RPS) about their risks. The World Health Organization (WHO), British Medical Association (BMA) and the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) are all unable to vouch for their safety. But Boots has persisted in the multimillion dollar deal – joining up with Fontem Ventures, a subsidiary of Imperial Tobacco.

More generally, Boots pharmacists increasingly feel that the logic of big business is compromising their professional autonomy, integrity, and statutory duties towards patients.

“I gave up my job because I could not keep working in such conditions,” a former Boots pharmacist told us. “I was offered a 40-hour contract, training, competent staff… But none of my colleagues had the requisite training to dispense medicines and I worked 12 hours every day without a break. It was all a lie. I became very anxious; it was just too much.”

Boots pharmacists have far less say over their working conditions than their NHS counterparts. Boots refuses to recognize the independent trade union, the Pharmacists Defence Association Union (PDAU). Without this protection and professional support, they are under pressure from management targets and a private equity culture that sees professionalism as a hindrance to profits. Their pay and conditions are cut, and their bureaucracy is increased. Anxiety and depression amongst staff is soaring, their mental health falling victim to the neoliberal message that if your lifestyle is on the down, it’s your own fault.

And Boots is becoming increasingly adept at using financial gimmicks to line its pockets – deriving enormous wealth not from management or investing skills, but from exploiting the tax system. Alliance Boots avoided paying at least £1.12 billion in tax in the 6 years after it became private, reducing its UK corporate tax bill by 95 percent, according to a report published in October 2013 by Unite, War on Want and US labour federation Change to Win. This money has disappeared offshore, personally enriching a handful of senior executives and investors, and shrinking the UK tax base.

It’s a classic private equity trick. By borrowing huge sums to ‘invest’ in a ‘leveraged’ buyout, then saddling the company with the debt repayments, they can deduct massive interest expenses from pre-tax profits. Boots 2007 buyout was funded with £9 billion in debt.

Such tax avoidance is significantly to blame for the growing strength behind the dangerous message that we cannot afford a free health service for much longer. It’s bad enough when it’s Google, Amazon and Apple. But it’s particularly galling when it’s a company that gets more than 40% of its UK revenue from the taxpayer, through NHS prescription dispensing and wholesale services.

Not only does debt allow private equity companies to avoid tax. They often borrow even more post ‘buyout’, and use that money to pay themselves huge “special dividends”. They recoup their initial investment while keeping the same ownership stake. These dividends create no economic value; they just redistribute money from the company to the private equity investors.

So private-equity firms are increasingly able to profit even if the companies they run crumble under the weight of debt and poor performance. In this way, private equity firms can actually fail to improve a company’s performance, fail to meet creditors’ obligations, screw workers – but still make a profit. It’s the trick pulled in social care – most notably doomed care home provider Southern Cross, bought out and driven into the ground by private equity company Blackstone – and now it’s taking root in healthcare as well. A back and forth between private equity and publicly listed companies is not uncommon – but with each throw, the race to the bottom worsens.

Boots is only the beginning.

Pharmacy – already more than 70% owned by corporate entities – is a soft route in for private investors interested in taking control of health infrastructure. Under the rhetoric of ‘care in the community’ and ‘self-care’, high street pharmacy chains including Boots are widening their influence by offering a range of healthcare services through the Any Qualified Provider (AQP) contract model. They are moving in on anti-coagulation and hearing test services already – services that many clinicians feel are better offered in the multi-disciplinary, fully equipped expert setting of NHS hospitals and clinics. Boots are also taking over hospital pharmacists, using favourable tax loopholes that put the NHS at a disadvantage.

Beyond pharmacy, private equity company Cinven bought the BUPA hospital chain a few years back, re-branding it as ‘Spire’ and again indulging in a level of debt-driven tax avoidance that commentators branded a ‘scam’. Fellow private provider (and owner of many of the disastrous ex-NHS 111 services) Care UK is ultimately owned by Bridgepoint private equity. Both groups are advised by former health ministers – and both have benefitted hugely from the increasing outsourcing of NHS clinical services from hip operations to mental health beds. This outsourcing – or privatisation – is often invisible to patients, disguised under the NHS logo.

In November 2013, the Department of Health sold an 80% stake in Plasma Resources UK, the state-owned NHS plasma supplier, to a US private equity firm Bain Capital, the company co-founded by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, in a £230m deal. Lord David Owen commented “It’s hard to conceive of a worse outcome for a sale of this particularly sensitive national health asset than a private equity company with none of the safeguards in terms of governance of a publicly quoted company and being answerable to shareholders.”

The Boots story tells that ownership affects institutional values. Unethical tax practices, unfair labour arrangements and unsafe patient services are the only way private equity can work.

A number of organisations concerned with tax justice, NHS privatisation and the rights of healthcare workers are highlighting these concerns. In June protests took place outside Boots stores in London and across the country, organised by Medact, Unite, War on Want and most recently, UK Uncut, calling on the company to pay its fair share of tax and on the government to investigate the company’s finances. Meanwhile, pharmacist employees at Boots continue in their struggle to win independent representation to protect their rights and working conditions. Medact are urging healthcare professionals to add their name to their petition asking the government to investigate these issues.

The growing disquiet about private equity in the NHS is not mere brand-bashing. Given the already apparent effects of private equity trickling down through Boots, we can only expect the same for the NHS – and that’s the kind of ending to the story that we must try to avoid at all costs.

Additional reporting by Caroline Molloy

The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it

Aneurin Bevan, the Labour Health Minister who created the NHS, famously said: “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”.

On 16 August 2014 a group of mothers from County Durham will set off from Jarrow to march to the Houses of Parliament, following in the footsteps of those who marched the route in 1936 to protest against mass unemployment. They did this as a bold but peaceful protest against the current NHS policy.

Whilst the Government can clearly influence the State media, it might also be true that the NHS will last as long as there are folk left in the social media and also those willing to show their democratic stand against the undemocratic demolition of a publically-owned NHS.

That people care about NHS issues, for example, is shown by the enormous affection held by many for groups such as the “NHS Action Party” and “Keep our NHS Public”, as well as the trades unions.

There have been some Labour MPs, especially, who have served in an outstanding way to represent the views of their constituents and beyond over health and social care policy.

The lack of credibility from the Department of Health is demonstrated in their statements below:

The first statement read, “We’re committed to an NHS which continues to be free at the point of use for everyone who needs it.”

Evidence of a postcode lottery in surgical provision has especially become clear in the lifetime of the current term of office.

The critical thing for the next Government not to do, of whatever political variety, is to introduce compulsory unified personal budgets and a system of co-payments, as that will torpedo in an onslaught against the free-at-the-point-of-need principle.

It clearly is a problem if one part of the system which is means-tested is soldered onto another part which is not means-tested, like a dodgy banger.

The second statement read, “By taking tough financial decisions elsewhere, this government has been able to increase the NHS budget by £12.7 billion during this parliament.”

Last year, the UK Statistics Authority upheld a complaint by Labour about government claims the NHS budget had increased in real-terms in the past two years.

And members of the current Government keep on lying about this.

The current Government took the public for granted in inflicting on them a £1.5bn top down reorganisation, turbo-boosting the awarding of contracts to the private sector.

It is conceded that the extent and speed of NHS contracting under the current Coalition have been a disaster.

Lynton Crosby, PR guru of the Conservative Party, does not want to talk about the NHS, it appears.

But now it is clear that people should make clear what type of NHS they wish to have.

Furthermore, the next Labour government will be seeking to fuse the NHS and social care, and to pool their budgets. This will be a huge step, and could have massive implications for the national roll-out of a shift from hospital to community care to promote wellbeing and health rather than acute crisis management.

People who have had their local hospital services shut down will also have a chance to make their opinions known. It is well know that many people do not want a ‘platinum service’ miles away, if they do not have ready access to an emergency service on their doorstep.

These are indeed testing times for the NHS and social care, but Jeremy Hunt fails to command a leadership necessary to lead the NHS beyond 2015, many feel.


via The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.