Profit-driven firms have been winning far more NHS contracts than ministers admit and privatisation has increased significantly under the coalition government, the latest evidence shows.
Two new sets of figures, detailing who is being awarded contracts to provide NHS clinical services, both challenge the government’s claim that only 6% of the service’s budget goes to private firms.
Contracts monitored by the NHS Support Federation campaign group show that private firms won £3.54bn of £9.628bn worth of deals awarded in England last year – a win rate of 36.8%.
And responses from GP-led clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to a Labour freedom of information request reveal that private firms have been winning 40% of contracts CCGs have put out to tender, worth a total of £2.3bn, only slightly fewer than the 41% awarded to NHS bodies.
Labour also claim that NHS patients have had to endure longer waits for treatment as NHS hospitals have increasingly maximised their income from private patients, the number of which has gone up by as much as 58% since 2010. The NHS will end up as “a two-tier service”, with those paying privately being prioritised over other patients, unless action is taken to reverse the trend, the party claims.
Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said the figures it had collated “demolish [David] Cameron’s claim that there’s only been a modest increase in privatisation on his watch. The truth is there has been a sharp increase and the public has never been asked whether they want the NHS to go in this direction.”
Labour will on Saturday try to again use health to its advantage in the election campaign by pledging to reinstate the 2% limit of total income that NHS hospitals can earn by treating patients privately.
Ministers claim that the proportion of the NHS’s £100bn-plus budget going to private firms has risen from 4% under the previous Labour government to 6% during the coalition’s time in office.
This month, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, accused Labour of trying to “scare people about privatisation that isn’t happening”.
But Labour’s research found that of 5,071 contracts awarded by CCGs 2,098 (41%) went to NHS bodies and 2,024 (40%) went to private healthcare firms, such as Care UK. The GP-led groups took control of £69.2bn of NHS funding in 2013.
“David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt have not been honest with working people about the scale and pace of privatisation on their watch. They’ve tried to play it down but these figures show they simply cannot be trusted with the NHS,” said Burnham. “It is shocking to see private companies winning just as many contracts as the NHS, and some with links to the Tory Party too.”
In 2009-10, Labour’s last year in power, 129 NHS foundation trust hospitals earned £224m in total from private patient income (PPI). By 2013-14 that had grown to 142 trusts sharing £389m between them.
The coalition lifted the cap on how much trusts could earn from PPI from 2% to 49% as part of its unpopular shakeup of the English NHS under the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
The £3.5bn worth of contracts won by private firms is five times the £681m the NHS Support Federation identified the year before. It also represents a huge increase on the £205m of contracts awarded in 2010-11, the coalition’s first year.
Of 13 contracts awarded last year that were worth at least £100m, six went to private firms, another five to private consortiums and just two to NHS providers bidding on their own. For example, Virgin Care got a £280m deal to coordinate care for long-term illness and care of elderly people in East Staffordshire.
“The public need clear sight of what’s happening to the NHS ahead of 7 May. The government cannot go on denying NHS privatisation. If we stay on the same path the NHS will become dominated by big business and there is a real danger that it will not survive,” said Paul Evans, director of the NHS Support Federation, which is funded by individuals, charities and unions.
“This is proof positive of a steep escalation in the private sector’s hold over the NHS. The mammoth NHS reforms opened up the NHS to the market and business. There is no current limit on how far their involvement can go,” he added.
The Tories rejected Labour’s claims about growing privatisation and dismissed returning the private patient cap to 2%.
A spokesman said: “This is a gimmick from Labour. Official figures show that outsourcing accounts for just 6p in each NHS pound, and private patient income is actually falling as a proportion of hospital budgets.
“By fixating on privatisation that independent experts and [NHS England boss] Simon Stevens say is a myth, Labour betray patients because the real debate should be good care against poor and on their watch, terrible events at Mid Staffs went ignored for four years.”
Source – The Guardian, 24 April 2015
A major jobs cull is on the horizon at a North East probation service as machines look set to replace some functions carried out by staff.
The Northumbria Community Rehabilitation Company (NCRC), which is run by the French catering company Sodexo, is set to shed 131 jobs (around 30% of its workforce) as chiefs look to cut costs.
Unions have slammed the plans, which have emerged in the wake of a divisive privatisation programme, as “downright dangerous”.
It comes as Sodexo plans to install ATM-style kiosks which would allow offenders to report to services without having to meet an officer.
The move to “biometric reporting” would see an offender’s identity checked using fingerprint technology.
A face-to-face meeting could then be requested by the offender.
It is also thought that low-risk offenders may in future be monitored via a call centre under the plans, which Sodexo insists are in the early stages.
The job cuts are expected to be spread out over a 12-month period.
Probation service union NAPO believes the measures, if implemented, could put the public at risk.
Ian Lawrence, general secretary of NAPO, said members feel let down by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.
“We are angry and disappointed about this news. Probation staff have been through hell over the last 18 months dealing with Grayling’s so called reforms and now many of them are facing redundancy and job insecurity.
“When we met with Sodexo earlier this year they told us there would be no reductions in workforce.
“The use of call centres and machines instead of highly skilled staff is down right dangerous and will put the public at risk.”
A Sodexo Justice Services spokesman said it was opening consultation on the plans with staff across the six UK centres that it operates.
“We are in the process of sharing our future plans with employees across the six CRCs that we operate, including Northumbria CRC.
“Given that we will be formally consulting on these plans, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”
“Regarding the enhanced voluntary redundancy scheme, we are complying with the National Agreement negotiated between the unions and NOMS.
“We are looking at the possibility of introducing biometric systems in the future but details have not yet been confirmed.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 01 Apr 2015
A union official has criticised a Labour council for putting 11 experienced health trainers out of a job after it chose a private company over the existing NHS provider.
The decision by Stockton Borough Council to award the contract to provide health trainer services to the private Leeds-based company More Life in preference to the existing providers – a team of 11 health trainers employed by the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust – means the NHS in the North-East is facing a redundancy bill for more than £200,000.
But the council defended its actions describing the NHS bid for the contract as “very poor” and stressing that the authority was heavily investing in a new family weight management service.
In 2005 the North-East was among the first areas in the country to benefit from NHS personal trainers.
But since public health budgets were switched from the NHS to local councils some contracts have been awarded to private companies.
More Life’s website says the company delivers weight management and health improvement programmes to individuals, families, local communities and within workplaces and has an impressive track record.
It was founded by Professor Paul Gately, one of the UK’s most respected experts in obesity and nutrition
“We are determined to get clear answers from Stockton Council and the trust as to why this has happened and why our members are facing redundancy instead of transferring to the new provider. It’s simply not right and we need to get to the bottom of this quickly. “
Stockton Borough Council’s director of public health, Peter Kelly, said:
“The Stockton Health and Wellbeing board has commissioned a new service for children and family weight management investing £1.4 million over the next three years and in addition to this is also currently investing nearly £200,000 per year in services for adults. North Tees and Hartlepool Trust was one of the bidders for the new service but the quality of its submission was very poor.”
Source – Northern Echo, 27 Mar 2015
Not too long before the general election, but that doesn’t stop the government’s personal money making machine slow down.
In the latest abuse of their power, the government are selling off the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) who are responsible for food safety in the UK.
Guess who the government are trying to sell it to? Their ‘preferred partner’ Capita.
Professor Tim Lang, a Westminster adviser, told The Independent that the sale of the key government research unit to the outsourcing giant Capita could undermine essential work on food safety and lead to commercial concerns being put before the public interest.
Capita formally takes over the agency next Wednesday. But Professor Lang, who heads City University London’s food policy unit, said: “I think it’s absolutely scandalous. This is selling the state, and the moment a state loses its access to science it’s in trouble.”
He claimed many food policy…
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Iain Duncan Smith gave a speech at the Social Investment Conference last week discussing how Social Impact Bonds are “transforming the whole culture of public spending”. These bonds are the latest way to funnel tax payer’s money into the private sector by allowing investment companies to hand out contracts to run public services on a payment by results model.
The way it works is simple. A bunch of city spivs and social enterprise bosses get together and decide they can fix a social problem such as street homelessness. A list of ‘outcomes’ are drawn up, such as the number of homeless people they think can place in accommodation and the government agrees to give them lots of our money if they are successful. The spivs then either lend or…
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Many of the major private health companies bidding for NHS services have tax avoidance measures ‘at the core of their activities’, research from Unite the Union has revealed.
The shocking report exposes ten major health companies including the four biggest private hospital chains in the UK, and Virgin Care and United Healthcare both currently bidding for major clinical contracts.
Tax expert Richard Murphy analysed ten private health firms actively bidding for and running privatised sections of the NHS. The research revealed that all ten make use of tax havens and extremely complex corporate structures to lessen their potential tax bill, while only two pay any significant tax in the UK at all.
The companies analysed by the research are: Care UK, Circle, General Healthcare Group, HCA, Bio Products Laboratory Holdings, Ramsay Healthcare, Spire Healthcare, The Practice, Optum (United Health) and Virgin Care.
Only two of the 10 companies…
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We have exposed the government and their greedy self-serving tactics time and time again, and now one of the biggest and most obvious abuses of their power has taken place through the largest privatisation deal for the NHS yet.
After making the NHS impossible to operate through their meddling the government have initiated the privatisation of surgery, x-rays, and other diagnostic tests through the back door.
Using a little known about body called ‘NHS Supply Chain’, a highly lucrative £780 million deal has been struck with eleven companies, three of them having previously been heavily criticised, including two by the NHS regulator, for providing poor quality of care in hospitals and care homes.
The total value of the privatisation is made up of five national contracts with a maximum value of £240m, £160m, £240m, £80m and £60m – adding up to a total of £780m.
The companies include several that…
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The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has condemned the Government’s decision to privatise part of the administration of Universal Credit.
Private firm Capita will be gifted with the responsibility for booking initial work search interviews for new Universal Credit claimants.
Capita is currently facing a second inquiry into a £1.5bn Whitehall jobs contract, which small companies claim could leave them facing financial ruin.
A press release on the union’s website reads:
“Their intention is that the process for booking the appointment for a claimant’s initial work search interview will be handed to the private company Capita. No DWP staff will be transferred to Capita under this proposal.
“There is no justifiable business reason for doing this. DWP claim that Capita will be able to make these appointments at weekends for claimants who make a claim online at a weekend, but in practice the appointments could just as well be done by DWP staff the following Monday, as has happened up to now.
“Capita already have been handed the same task for claims to Jobseekers Allowance and this announcement extends that arrangement to Universal Credit claims.
“PCS has protested strongly to DWP about this decision. Seeing their work privatised is a kick in the teeth for our hard working members.
“Members will also be understandably concerned that this privatisation is a foretaste of further private sector involvement in the delivery of Universal Credit.
“PCS has also made the point to the department that Capita is consistently failing to meet its key targets in relation to JSA First Contact calls that are currently out sourced to them. This failure contrasts with the DWP staff in CCS who are consistently meeting the very same targets.
“Again the failure of the private sector to out-perform the public sector has been ignored as the tired, false dogma of ‘private sector good, public sector bad’ is wheeled out once again.
“PCS will continue to argue against all privatisation of DWP work and will continue to campaign for all privatised work to be brought back in-house where it belongs.”
> Hear, hear – claimants should be harrassed by public sector, not private company , workers.
Jobcentres are, I would guess, high on the list for selling off to private companies if the Tories win the next election. Possibly if Labour win too.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 22 Feb 2015
> Another victory for outsourcing…
Teachers at a ‘shambolic’ jail have been left fearing for their safety after inmates are turning up ‘drunk’ and ‘on drugs’ it has been claimed.
A member of staff, who works for Manchester College and teaches at HMP Northumberland, said staff were faced with inmates coming into lessons visibly drunk or high on drugs.
Often, 12 classrooms were monitored by a single prison guard, leaving members of the teaching staff afraid for their safety – despite having access to panic buttons.
An HMIP report on the jail revealed one in three inmates said it was easy, or very easy, to access drugs behind bars at the Sodexo run jail.
A letter seen by the NEC said civilian staff were regularly in contact with intoxicated ‘unpredictable’ prisoners.
“The teachers inside the jail are civilians working for an outside college and we rely on the officers presence to ensure our safety.
“Now the officers have been drastically reduced we are having to work with only one, or no officers present in the various education areas on the site, sometimes with upwards of 12 classes in one area and our safety is severely at risk.
“Teachers have repeatedly voiced concerns about not feeling safe because of the lack of officers but our management do not act on our concerns.
“We are having to deal with inmates turning up to class drunk and on drugs and their behaviour is unpredictable.”
The anonymous letter said some inmates had been found with ‘blades’ in class.
Staff and campaigners have voiced serious concerns about the dramatic fall in staffing levels at the jail, from 441 in 2010 to 270 in 2013.
> Well, what do they expect ? Shareholders demand higher profits, and paying fewer wages is an one way to do that. Profit above all else.
In the past year 12 members of Manchester College have left the jail which the staff member has put down to safety concerns.
Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck where the jail is based, has raised his concerns with justice secretary Chris Grayling in the House of Commons as well as calling for a review of Sodexo’s contract to run the jail but in his latest response Mr Grayling said he looks forward to seeing the prison improve.
Mr Lavery said:
“My office is now receiving lots of anonymous allegations about HMP Northumberland, all of which express serious views on the safety of everyone on the prison estate be it employees or prisoners.
“The latest was from a concerned prisoner describing the place as a ‘nuclear bomb ready to explode’.
“I will continue to raise these issues and will not back off until the prison is seen to be a safe place to be for everyone.
“I don’t want to be any way responsible for ignoring the desperate pleas for help in indeed a tragedy were to occur.”
A spokesman for Sodexo Justice Services said:
“The safety and security of prisoners, staff and visitors at HMP Northumberland is our highest priority.
“We have regular contact with Manchester College which runs the education courses at the prison. College staff can raise any issues through the appropriate channels which they are aware of and we urge them to do so if they have any concerns.”
A Statement released by Manchester College said:
“We take our duty of care to staff seriously, and work closely with Sodexo to maintain a safe working environment at the prison.
“We provide procedures for teachers to raise their concerns, and when they do we investigate thoroughly in conjunction with prison management.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 17 Feb 2015