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 North East MP has accused Government ministers of ignoring the region’s “first class” healthcare when dishing out emergency cash awards.
This week, Westminster approved a £25m injection into social care for older people in areas where hospitals are facing the biggest problems over delayed patient discharges.
But of the 65 local authorities in England to receive the money, which must be spent by the end of March to ease pressure on wards by moving patients into care in the community, none are in the North East.
Ronnie Campbell, Labour member for Blyth Valley, claims the funding is “almost all southern based where local authorities haven’t been on the receiving end of same level of ConDem cuts as Northern authorities” which have still managed to provide “a first class service”.
And he accused the Government of bailing out councils who are failing to organise their discharges from hospitals properly, while not rewarding Northumberland, North and South Tyneside, Sunderland, Durham and Newcastle councils who are facing up to the challenges.
“I’m very worried that local authorities like Northumberland are having their budgets hacked to bits and yet they’re coping with the transfer from NHS care to local authority care.
“They’re under enormous pressure to deliver other services to the general public yet Eric Pickles and Jeremy Hunt are rewarding councils which happen to have marginal constituencies in them.
“This doesn’t seem to be the ‘fair deal for Northumberland’ local Tories are trumpeting – in fact, this ranks up there with the 20% cut to transport funding and £3m further cuts to the council budget as an example of how the ConDems are targeting the North for purely party political reasons.”
The Department of Health emergency fund was authorised by a special ministerial committee, which has met weekly to help the NHS cope with winter pressures.
According to NHS England, one in five hospital beds was occupied over the Christmas period by someone ready for discharge but unable to move on because of blockages in the system. About a third of these blockages were attributed to lack of social care services.
The average cash boost for each of the 65 councils is £380,000, with money to be spent on extra support for people in their homes and short-term places in residential homes.
Responding to Mr Campbell, Coun Peter Jackson, Tory leader on Northumberland County Council, said:
“The truth is that this Government has fully protected NHS funding from day one.
“Rather than acknowledge this or the indication that our local health care services are performing much better than others across the country, Labour are once again resorting to scaremongering tactics and displaying financial illiteracy.
“Mr Campbell appears to be deliberately misleading the public by confusing local government and health care funding.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Department of Health added:
“We planned for winter earlier than ever this year. We constantly review what additional measures we can take to ease the pressure on services.
“In preparation for the Better Care Fund, the NHS and local authorities are already preparing joint plans to work together better, keep people well and avoid hospital admissions. This money helps speed up that work for this winter.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 Jan 2015
Hundreds of people gathered to protest against the removal of NHS services from a Teesside hospital.
Over 800 people joined forces to take part in the Save Hartlepool Hospital Protest Walk.
The event was organised by Sue Little in response to North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s decision to move services out of the University Hospital of Hartlepool to the trust’s other base – the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton.
Services lost in the town include the children’s ward, maternity and the A&E department, which closed in August 2011 after being declared unfit for purpose.
Now, people with minor injuries are seen at NHS centre One Life Hartlepool and those with more serious cases are taken to Stockton.
And with fears that the ‘super-hospital’ at Wynyard, which was due to replace both hospitals within the trust, will never get off the ground, residents fear the prospect of having North Tees as their local hospital.
Communities in East Durham, as far as Easington, are also affected as patients must travel to Stockton rather then the nearer Hartlepool.
No decision on any of the services is expected before a General Election.
“We’re all annoyed about what has happened to our hospital and the services being moved to Stockton,” said Sue, a mum-of-three from Seaton Carew. “This is why we are here.
“We want to send a message loud and clear to North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust that we are not going to lie down on this matter. We want our services back.”
“The turn out has been fantastic,” she added. “I want the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, to see this strength of feeling.”
Saturday’s walk started at Seaton Carew bus station and ended at the hospital.
There were dozens of stewards helping out, as well as a police presence and a support vehicle following the marchers.
Another supporter at the march was Keith Fisher, chair of the Save our Hospital group.
The 72-year-old said: “We are not saying we want services here instead of at Stockton – we want them at both.
“The first march that ever took place was to save our hospital and then we were protesting to keep our A&E. Now we are demanding we get out services back.”
Edna Wright, a former Liberal Democrat representative on Hartlepool Borough Council from 1991 until 2012, has been heavily involved in the hospital fight for many years.
She said: “I have been fighting against this move for 14 years when they first wanted to transfer cancer services to Middlesbrough.
“I said this hospital would go bit by bit, limb by limb and it has.
“North Tees can’t cope by itself and they are not admitting that – this hospital is being used behind closed doors and it needs to be kept open.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 10 Jan 2014
NHS nurses on Tyneside are “seriously considering” setting up shoebox collections to help colleagues struggling to cope with pay cuts, MPs have heard.
Labour’s Dave Anderson, MP for Blaydon, said some nurses were worried about getting through Christmas.
And he said he had been informed of the idea under consideration at a trust where the chief executive’s pay had increased alongside a rise in allowances for its governors.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Anderson told Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt :
“Can I advise you that last week I spoke to nurses at the hospital near my constituency who told me because of the ongoing cuts to their pay, which has been going on for many years, they are actually seriously considering setting up shoebox collections to help their members get through Christmas.
“At the same time, the chief executive of the trust has had a 17% pay increase and the governors of the trust have had an 88% increase in their allowances.
“Is this what you mean by all being in this together?”
Mr Hunt replied that the Government would take no lessons from Labour on increases to the salaries of senior managers.
“I’m afraid we won’t take any lessons from the party that increased managers’ pay at double the rate of nurses’ pay when they were in office.
“I’ll tell you what this Government has done when it comes to the lowest paid NHS workers, because of our increases in the tax-free threshold they have seen their take home pay go up by £1,000 a year.”
> Pot calls kettle black, blah, blah, blah… meanwhile the nurses are still collecting.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 02 Dec 2014
Iain Duncan Smith has explored the possibility of putting overweight benefit claimants on to celebrity diets, the Sunday Express has reported today (14 Sept 2014).
According to the newspaper, a letter written by Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) to the health Secretary Jeremy Hunt showed that IDS was exploring the possibility of putting claimants who struggle to control their weight on to a celebrity rapid weight loss diet.
After a meeting this month it was claimed that the diet had already helped obese benefit claimants back into work and could help a further 8,000.
IDS later wrote to Ms Barber informing her that he was considering recommending the Cambridge Diet for obese jobseekers.
“I have written to the Health Secretary to make him aware of the Cambridge Weight Plan. I have also asked my department to investigate the possibility of introducing this as an option for those who are too obese to work.”
The Sunday Express reports that the Cambridge Diet is backed by a number of celebrities including actress Jennifer Ellison, who lost two stone in only two months after limiting her food consumption to less than 800 calories a day.
The DWP has denied that the government is considering recommending the diet for obese benefit claimants.
“DWP is not looking into this”, they told the Daily Express. “Iain Raised it with Department for Health as a constituency MP”.
Understandably, many of our readers will see this as yet another attempt to demonise benefit claimants. Particularly as it comes from a right-wing newspaper with a long history of doing exactly that.
However, it may also show how IDS will go to extraordinary lengths in his attempts to do the same.
Whereas it is correct to help people control their weight for a number of different reasons, it should never be a precondition for social security benefits – if indeed that was being considered.
Source – Welfare News Service, 14 Sept 2014
An investigation into a huge child abuse scandal in the North could be re-opened after questions were raised in Parliament.
Home Secretary Theresa May has vowed to look into allegations of “a whitewash” during the investigation into widespread abuse at children’s homes in the North.
Operation Rose involved hundreds of allegations dating back to the 1960s.
Northumbria Police carried out a three-year investigation into sexual and physical abuse at 61 children’s homes run by voluntary bodies and councils in Northumberland, Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland.
But the £5m inquiry resulted in only six convictions, despite uncovering 530 allegations.
The investigation began in 1997 after a woman in her twenties told a social worker that she and a friend had been abused as children in care.
Officers embarked on a process of “trawling” for information by writing to 1,800 former residents explaining that they were looking into homes where they had once lived.
Police regarded 97 individuals as possible suspects, of whom 60 were arrested in connection with charges of child abuse.
Eventually, 32 people who were charged with a total of 142 offences, of which five were found guilty, one pleaded guilty, 12 were found not guilty, nine had cases withdrawn, four died before their cases were heard and one remained on file.
Court hearings continued until 2002.
But the investigation could be re-opened after a series of revelations, including the shocking truth about child abuse by Jimmy Savile, led to concern that abuse and exploitation was more widespread than previously believed.
Northumberland MP Ronnie Campbell, Labour MP for Blyth Valley, urged Mrs May to look into the affair as he said more alleged victims had come forward.
Speaking in the House of Commons, he said: “Will the Home Secretary look at Operation Rose in Northumberland, which took place a few years ago? It is becoming more apparent that it was a whitewash as more victims come forward each day and each month.”
Mrs May told him she would investigate.
She said: “It is precisely because I want to ensure that we cover all the cases that have come up that I think it is important that the terms of the inquiry panel are drawn quite widely. I will look into the matter that he raises.”
Mr Campbell has raised concerns about Operation Rose in the past. Last year he told the Commons that one constituent who was in care homes in the 1960s and 1970s had attempted to report abuse he had suffered but was told it was “just what happened in those days”.
But Operation Rose also led to complaints during the police inquiry that innocent teachers, social workers and care home staff were having their lives ruined because of the way police encouraged alleged victims to come forward.
The Government last week launched a wide-ranging investigation into the extent of historic child abuse in the country and whether police, courts, the National Health Service, schools and institutions such as the BBC let down victims.
An expert panel will also have the power to scrutinise the behaviour of political parties, the security services and private companies.
And Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt last month urged anyone who was abused by Jimmy Savile at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary to come forward. An inquiry has found Savile made at last three visits to the Royal Victoria Infirmary and Newcastle General Hospital, but found no evidence of abuse.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 13 July 2014
Health chiefs have received pay rises of up to 17% while nurses and health care assistants experience real term cuts topping 12%, a union has revealed.
Analysis of senior executive NHS pay by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has shown that bosses at hospital trusts in the region were awarded salary increases averaging 10.5% between 2010 and 2013, while mid-band nurses managed a paltry 0.1%. Taking into account inflation some suffered a real terms cut of 12%.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt previously warned that health service employees would face a pay freeze until March 2016 and that they might not get the 1% promised for 2014 unless unions accept greater pay restraint.
Glenn Turp, regional director for the RCN northern region, said: “Frontline nurses and health care assistants have already borne the brunt of the Government’s pay restraint policy over many years. And we know that, once inflation is factored in, NHS salaries have in fact been cut between 8% and 12% in real terms, between the period 2010 and 2014.
“The Chancellor promised to deliver a 1% pay rise this year for the front line, but the Secretary of State for Health is now trying to introduce a further pay freeze until March 2016.
“This is completely unacceptable. It is particularly galling that the Government is quite happy for NHS managers to get significant pay rises, while at the same time, the front line takes another hit.
“A 1% pay increase is a perfectly reasonable and proportionate request, particularly when put in the context of the rises in senior managers’ pay. The Government needs to stop having one rule for the frontline nursing staff, and another for senior bosses.”
The RCN northern region compared the salaries of chief executives across all North East trusts for the financial year 2010-11, with the most recent financial year data available, 2012-13.
Ian Renwick, chief executive of Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, received the largest pay rise of 17% as his wages jumped from £190,000 to just under £223,000.
Jim Mackey from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust saw his salary rise 9%, from £211,000 to £230,000.
Newcastle Hospital’s NHS Foundation Trust’s chief executive, Sir Leonard Fenwick, is paid the most at £246,000, although the trust has insisted he has had no pay rise in three years, despite the RCN suggesting he had received a 6% increase.
A spokesperson for Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust said: “The salaries of our chief executive and of all our executive directors are decided by an independent nominations and remuneration committee and this is to ensure they are in line with publicly available salary benchmarking information.
“As one of the country’s top performing NHS Foundation Trusts, it is important that those with ultimate accountability are remunerated appropriately so that we can retain the very best healthcare leaders in the North East NHS.”
Figures show that a mid-band 5 nurse salary in the North East increased from £23,563 in 2010/11 to just £23,589 in 2012/13, a rise of just 0.1%. In 2011-12 a pay freeze was implemented by the Government to NHS staff earning more than £21,000.
A spokesperson from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “The remuneration of our leadership team is decided independently to make sure that salaries are in line with those of other high performing NHS organisations.
“To be clear, however, along with the rest of our staff, no director at Northumbria Healthcare has had an increase in pay since the pay freeze was implemented in 2011/12.”
Last night, the Department of Health defended its decision to limit pay rises for NHS frontline staff.
A spokesperson said: “The NHS is rightly playing its role in public sector pay restraint.
“Average pay has increased by around 1%. Despite this, many NHS staff continue to be well paid for the lifesaving work they do and the majority of staff have received additional incremental pay increases of up to 6%.
“The number of admin staff, managers and senior managers in the NHS has fallen by over 21,000. This will lead to a significant reduction in managers’ costs.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 03 Feb 2014
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