An NHS whistleblower has claimed that the A&E crisis is being made worse because highly trained NHS paramedics across the country are being poached by Atos and Capita to do assessments for personal independence payment (PIP), instead of saving lives.
There is a severe shortage of paramedics throughout the UK, but Hampshire – where our whistleblower works – has a particularly acute problem. South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) had over 250 vacancies for paramedics in November of this year.
Our whistleblower claimed that the situation was being made even worse because experienced paramedics are leaving to take up full time posts with Atos, who carry out PIP assessments in the region.
Paramedics in the NHS usually have to train to degree level, yet salaries range from just £21,478 to £27,901 for the most experienced paramedics. In addition, the job involves a good deal of shift work and unsocial hours.
Atos, on the other hand, offer paramedics who join them as full-time PIP assessors a salary of £32,000 plus private medical insurance, life assurance, income protection insurance and no unsocial hours.
It is hardly surprising if paramedics choose to make the move to Atos, or to Capita who offer a very similar package.
The effects of the paramedic shortage can be seen on a daily basis. Just this week an injured cyclist was left lying on the pavement for more than two hours in central London whilst waiting for paramedics to arrive.
The paramedic shortage is also taking desperately needed cash from the NHS. In Hampshire 16% of paramedic cover is currently provided by much more expensive private companies while health trusts around the UK are having to advertise abroad to try to attract paramedics to the UK.
Paramedics are also vital for reducing pressure on A&E departments by providing effective treatment on the spot. In many cases this reduces the amount of time spent on patients when they arrive at A&E or removes the need for a visit altogether.
Dismissal for speaking out
The SCAS employee who contacted us about the crisis was afraid to speak out publically because staff have received an email this week warning them that telling outsiders about problems in SCAS, especially online, could lead to dismissal. The email threatened:
“Everything you say online is subject to the same disciplinary procedure that covers your conduct in the real world. There have been disciplinary hearings that have resulted in staff being dismissed for breaches to the SCAS Code of Conduct.
“Don’t let this happen to you!
“We value our staff and it is important that when staff and the organisation are feeling the pressure, that we try and provide the appropriate support through internal and external means rather than airing frustrations that may damage public confidence.
“If you have any concerns, queries or want to ask us about this please do contact us. In the meantime for more information go to:
“The SCAS Discipline & Conduct Policy & Procedure”
We contacted SCAS and asked them how many staff have left to work for Atos or Capita in the last six months. A spokesperson told us:
“South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust are unable to advise on the numbers of staff who have left the organisation to join the organisations you have named. Unless staff are leaving to join another NHS Trust, they are not obliged to inform us of the name of their new employer.”
SCAS also denied that the recent email to staff was related to concerns about paramedics leaving to join the private sector.
Cash before lives
Atos and Capita have not even begun the massive task of assessing millions of existing disability living allowance claimants for PIP as part of the Coalition’s effort to reduce benefits spending. When they do, they will need to take on hundreds more assessors. How many of these will be poached from the NHS?
The crisis in paramedic numbers is not new, it has been growing since 2010. There would have been nothing to prevent the DWP stipulating in the PIP contracts for Atos and Capita that they did not recruit paramedics. There would be nothing to stop them doing so now.
The fact that they don’t reinforces the impression that, for the DWP, saving cash is always more important than saving lives.
Source – Benefits & Work, 20 Dec 2014
> At one time I’d have maybe filed a story like this under ‘Urban Myth’… nowadays, who knows ?
Britain today – everything is for sale.
Cash-strapped Britons are lining up to sell a kidney on the black market, a Sunday Post investigation has revealed.
Advertising organs for sale is illegal in the UK and anyone caught attempting it can face a three-year jail term.
But a Sunday Post investigation found people across the country so desperate for cash they were willing to flout the law.
Our reporter posed as the brother of a woman desperately needing a transplant and placed an advert on a Facebook page specifically set up to buy and sell organs.
Within a week he had received 11 offers from desperate people worldwide willing to risk their lives to drag themselves out of poverty.
Many of the black market operations take place in India, Pakistan or China in an underground industry controlled by ruthless gangs.
Donors from Britain would need to travel abroad to avoid tough checks — including medical assessments and in-depth interviews — carried out by the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) on all live donors in the UK.
Among the people to contact us was a man from north-east England who claimed he realised it “would be a big thing to do but for the right amount I would be willing”.
Our reporter held detailed discussions with the self-employed dad-of-three, including his blood type, the state of his health, a £30,000 payment for the donation and arrangements to meet in person.
A 22-year-old dad living in Northampton was happy to accept £20,000 for his kidney because he and his pregnant fiancee desperately need to raise enough money to return to their native Hungary.
The cash-strapped dad, who has studied at two colleges in Northamptonshire, became frustrated our reporter was not progressing the deal quickly enough and has since placed a new advert, wanting a sale “as soon as possible”.
Others to respond included three Indians willing to travel abroad, a Mexican man who revealed he was desperate for cash and a woman from Tanzania.
Meanwhile the site also contained recent adverts placed by desperate Britons willing to risk their lives and freedom for cash.
A 28-year-old man from Banchory, Aberdeenshire, placed a message online in which he claimed he would talk to anyone willing “to make an offer”.
The man who works as a chef in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, had several replies to his message.
A mum from Hampshire has placed two adverts online describing herself as having an O-negative blood type and “has a passport” suggesting she is prepared to travel abroad.
Experts at the World Health Organisation, which in 2012 revealed 10,000 black market operations involving organs were taking place every year, reacted with shock at our probe.
Luc Noel, a special advisor based in Switzerland, said: “Your Facebook experience is revealing. It demonstrates the vulnerability of some people and the power of easy money. This is one of the reasons to prohibit payment.
“Meeting patients’ needs also demands that there should not be any divide created by financial incentives.”
Jeff Powell, campaigns and policy director at anti-poverty charity War on Want, said: “It is shocking that people are so poor that they would be willing to sell a kidney for cash. This level of desperation is a direct result of governments, both at home and abroad, prioritising corporate profits and the interests of the rich over the fight against poverty and inequality.”
Alan Clamp, chief executive of the HTA which regulates live organ donations throughout the UK, said“It is illegal to offer or seek payment for organs for sale under the Human Tissue Act, and no operation from a living donor can go ahead without our approval.
“Before a transplant from a living donor goes ahead, the hospital transplant team will assess if the donor is suitable and run several tests to ensure the transplant will be as successful as possible.
“An independent assessor, acting on behalf of the HTA, will then carry out interviews with both parties and report back.
“We need to satisfy ourselves that the donor knows the risks involved, that the donor has given consent freely and no reward has been offered or received.”
Kidney transplants should take place when tests show the damage is so great the patient will require dialysis within six months.
But because of a chronic shortage of available organs this seldom happens, unless the patient receives a live donor from a family member of friend, with a compatible blood and tissue type.
The average wait for a transplant is three years but for people with rare blood groups and tissue types the wait can be much longer.
NHS Blood and Transplant has revealed across the UK there are currently 7,044 patients on the transplant waiting list of which 5,668 are for kidneys.
Currently there are around 10,000 people in the UK needing a transplant and three people die every day due to a shortage of organs. During 2012/13, 4,212 transplants took place, the majority of which were from dead donors, with 1,000 from living donors.
In 2011 broadcaster Jon Snow launched a campaign to encourage altruistic kidney donations after it was revealed wiping out the kidney transplant waiting list would save the NHS £650 million over five years.
The campaign led by Charity Give a Kidney — One’s Enough revealed the average cost of treating a patient in the final stages of kidney disease is £150,000 over five years.
By contrast, the average cost of transplantation per patient over five years is £50,000.
Source – Sunday Post 09 March 2014
A Tory MP worth £110million is raking in £625,000 a year from his hard-up tenants’ housing benefit – despite blasting the “something for nothing” welfare state.
Richard Benyon – Britain’s richest MP – runs his vast property empire from a mansion on his sprawling country pile.
But last night he was accused of cashing in off the back of the very handouts his party pledged to slash – as it emerged a string of other Tories were doing the same.
Just last month the MP, 53, said: “The average household spends £3,000 per year on the welfare state. This figure had been rising inexorably and unaffordably.”
Mr Benyon has also attacked the Labour Party over payments and said: “Labour want benefits to go up more than the earnings of people in work. It isn’t fair and we will not let them bring back their something for nothing culture.”
He is a director of the Englefield Estate Trust Corporation Limited, which owns most of the land and property linked to his family.
It got £625,964 in housing benefit from West Berkshire council last year, more than any other private landlord in the area.
Eileen Short, of Defend Council Housing, fumed: “How dare Richard Benyon lecture us about ‘something for nothing’ when he is living off the poorest and milking taxpayers all the way to the bank?
“It’s not tenants who gain from housing benefit, but some of the richest people in Britain. They get richer at our expense – and blame us while they’re at it.”
Mr Benyon is likely to pull in thousands of pounds more from properties in other areas, too, as his firm owns 20,000 acres of land from Hampshire to Scotland and 300 houses in Hackney, East London.
His office refused to comment on the figures or confirm whether Englefield got more housing benefit from other councils. Buy-to-let landlords and property tycoons like him will bank a total of £9.2billion in housing benefit this year.
It costs more than £23 a week, or 29% more in housing benefit, for a council to house a tenant with a private landlord than with a housing association or social not-for-profit landlord, according to the Department for Work and Pensions.
Mrs Short added: “It’s time we stopped greedy private landlords living off housing benefit. Instead of subsidising them, we ought to cut rents not benefits, and invest in housing that’s really affordable. Let’s get these people off our backs.”
Our investigation, with the GMB union, comes after it was revealed yesterday that UKIP’s housing spokesman Andrew Charalambous was making a fortune off migrant tenants on welfare – despite leader Nigel Farage calling for a ban on foreigners claiming the cash.
The millionaire pocketed £745,351 in housing benefit from occupants, who he admitted included immigrants.
Our probe also uncovered a number of other Tories and donors who also bagged cash through housing benefit tenants last year –
Baron Iliffe’s firm got £195,072 from West Berkshire council. His estate is worth an estimated £245million. He and his wife have donated £50,000 to the Tories.
Peer Lord Cavendish benefitted from £106,938 in housing welfare last year from Barrow council in Cumbria through his shareholding in Holker Estates.
The Earl of Cadogan, who has given £23,000 to the Tories, has received £116,400 in benefits from Kensington and Chelsea.
And MP Richard Drax’s 7,000-acre Morden Estate got £13,830 from Purbeck council, South Dorset, last year. A Morden spokesman said: “We don’t comment on these things.”
On top of Mr Benyon’s haul from tenants, his family farms have also received more than £2million in EU subsidies since 2000.
Once a year the multi-millionaire – whose great great grandad was PM Lord Salisbury – hands out food to poor families as part of a 16th century tradition. He recently came under fire for scrapping plans to dredge the Somerset Levels. He was also criticised for claiming poor families wasted too much food.
Our investigation is based on Freedom of Information Act requests made by the GMB union, which has many members who rely on social housing. There are 1.8 million households on the waiting list for council homes. Despite Government pledges to tackle the welfare bill, the annual cost hit £24billion this year.
The DWP said: “Housing benefit provides a meaningful safety net for people, whether they live in social housing or in private rental properties, and it’s sensible that both of these options are available to people.”
Source – Daily Mirror, 24 Feb 2014