“Putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank” – Private Equity Companies invited to get involved with healthcare commissioning

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November 8, 2013 by Protect Our NHS

WTF!! How can you not be furiously angry with this dreadful coalition? This piece, originally in the British Medical Journal, was sent to me by a ProNHS colleague and my immediate response was that just when you think this government has hit rock bottom in the ethical stakes you find it is still heading down and down! Read on and feel your blood pressure rise…

“Private equity firms are invited to get involved with commissioning. Health campaigners have reacted angrily to reports that private equity companies have been approached to help run organisations that advise the NHS on purchasing billions of pounds of healthcare services in England. The Financial Times reported on 4 November that several companies had been approached by the NHS about the possibility of taking over or merging with 19 commissioning support units (CSUs), set up under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to advise clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) on NHS spending.

NHS England told the BMJ that it had held “exploratory” talks with potential providers and investors from the private and voluntary sectors to discuss how they may become involved in the organisations, which provide services such as contract management, procurement advice, and back office IT support.

The National Health Action (NHA) party, the political party established by doctors to protect the NHS, described the move as “a further step towards privatising the NHS.” The party warned of conflicts of interest if firms offered commissioning support in areas where they could also provide NHS services. In addition to their other functions, CSUs provide commissioning groups with health needs assessments, business intelligence, and support for service redesign, and currently employ around 9000 staff2—including many from now disbanded primary care trusts. The 19 units are currently subsidised by the NHS, but will operate in a competitive and open marketplace from 2016, when they are expected to either become independent companies or to form joint ventures with public or private sector companies.

Aatif Hassan, partner at August Equity, was quoted by the Financial Times as saying: “The NHS has approached us and a number of private equity groups.” Support services companies such as Atos, Serco, and Capita will also be competing in the new market, and have already begun offering some support to CSUs.

Louise Irvine, executive member of the NHA party, a GP in Lewisham, southeast London, and member of BMA Council, said: “This is a further step towards privatising the NHS. Private equity companies are clearly only interested in profits. They have no commitment to the values and principles of the NHS as a public service. “There will be huge conflicts of interest as they will give lucrative contracts to their friends in the private sector. Deals will be hidden behind commercial confidentiality. Money will be drained from the NHS into private pockets and there will be further cuts to frontline services as a result.”

John Lister, member of the NHA party and director of campaign group London Health Emergency, added: “Putting private equity firms in de facto charge of commissioning—advising GPs and shaping local policy options for CCGs—is really like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank.”


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“That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.” Noam Chomsky

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