Private Eye on the Perils of Healthcare Ownership: The Winterbourne View Hospital Scandal

I’ve blogged today about how the government has privatised the NHS blood plasma service to a private equity firm. It was a private equity firm, Lydian Capital Partners, that owned Castle Holdings, which in turn owned CB Care Ltd. CB Care Ltd was the parent company of which Castlebeck Care was a part, which ran the Winterbourne View Residential Hospital near Bristol. Winterbourne View was the subject of a massive scandal after the BBC’s documentary programme, Panorama, uncovered the horrific abuse of its residents by the staff who were supposed to be caring for them. Winterbourne View was a home for people with learning difficulties. The programme showed the brutal treatment of the patients, including physical violence. It made for difficult, unpleasant viewing. An official investigation and court case followed. This revealed that many of the staff employed at the hospital had little training in the care of such vulnerable handicapped people.

Private Eye published their own investigation of the firm in their issue for the 10th to 23rd of July 2011 in their In The Back section devoted to investigative reporting. The piece was entitled ‘Financial Jiggery Pokery: The Idolatry of False Profits’. It ran as follows:

‘Both Southern Cross and the company behind the Winterbourne View residential hospital, whose management failed to respond to concerns well before Panorama exposed them, ought to have paid more attention to care, and less to financial engineering.

Winterbourne is run by Castlebeck Care, which is part of the CB Care Ltd group. This group, accounts filed at Companies Hpouse reveal, is owned by a Jersey company called Castle Holdings Ltd, which in turn is controlled by the Jersey limited partnership, Lydian Capital Partners LP, through which the group was acquired in 2006 by the Swiss-based private equity group Lydian.

The main backers of Lydian are Irish financiers JP McManus, John Magnier and Denis Brosnan, whose son Paul chairs CB Care; and they also include Irish Billionaire Dermot Desmond, who in 2007 and 2008 donated £100,000 to the Conservaitve party through another of his firms, Venson Automotive.

Having an offshore setup is, of course standard fare for private equity owhnership, which invariably entails stripping out as much profit from businesses as possible in the form of tax-deductible interest payments. This leaves margins in the companies that are supposed to be doing things like caring for people thin (to say the least) and makes decent management a luxury.

CB Care’s most recent accounts show it saddled with £233m bank debt and £195 subordinated debt, on most of which investors earn interest at, ahem, 15 percent. The total annual interest bill of £38m a year left the group with losses in 2008 of £19m and 2009 of £10m. Naturally it hasn’t paid a bean in tax. Even a move in April last year to convert £100m of the debt to an interest-free loan – quite possibly at the behest of the taxman – is unlikely to turn the business around.

More importantly, the figures reveal the priorities of private equity-owned care businesses: taking short-term profits out, not putting long-term care in. One of the crucial questions now facing the government is whether foreign foreign equity firms are the best stewards of British social care., As men like Desmond fund the Conservative party, it may be a question it will try to avoid.

* Castlebeck issued an immediate statement after Panorama, detailing its plans to deal with the matter. Unfortunately7, even after the story broke the company’s website was still displaying a logo proudly telling visitors it was the “overall winner of the 2010 Healthcare 100 Best Employers Award”. This bit of self-aggrandising has been quietly removed.’

This is the type of firm the Coalition has decided to sell the NHS Blood Plasma Service to. Still, no doubt they’ve got utter confident in the situation.

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2 Responses to “Private Eye on the Perils of Healthcare Ownership: The Winterbourne View Hospital Scandal”

  1. thepositivevoice Says:

    Reblogged this on thepositivevoice.

  2. rainbowwarriorlizzie Says:

    Reblogged this on HUMAN RIGHTS & POLITICAL JOURNAL.

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