Posts Tagged ‘Andersen Consulting’

Private Eye from 1995 on Private Health Firms in the NHS and Computer Chaos

April 13, 2015

Private Eye in their edition for Friday, 6th October 1995 also published another piece by Paul Foot in his ‘Footnotes’ column about a consortium of drug companies pushing for the privatisation of the NHS under the chairmanship of Sir Duncan Nichol, the director of BUPA, the private health insurer. Nichol was also head of the NHS when £20 million was wasted on a failed computer project, in which they were advised by Anderson Consulting.

Put Another Nichol In

So crass, discursive, vacillating and shoddily presented was the first report of Health Care 2000 that even the health secretary Stephen Dorrell attacked it.

Health Care 2000 was set up in 1993 by Britain’s 30 top drug companies “to encourage the development of partnership and programmes with others involved in health care”. It report suggests that private money should be encouraged into the National Health Service by allowing people to buy better NHS treatment – for instance by paying a fee for more convenient appointment times to avoid all those nasty hours with the plebs in the doctors’ waiting rooms. The only certain result of this would be that more money would be spent on drugs.

The chair of the committee which produced the report is Sir Duncan Nichol, who is described as director of the health service management unit at Manchester University. Shyly, the report does not boast of Sir Duncan’s other important job: as a director of BUPA, the private health insurance group.

From 1989 to 1993 Sir Duncan was also head of the National Health Service, of course, and in 1993 he gave evidence to the Commons public accounts committee about an interesting example of private money in the National Health Service: the waste of at least £20 million of NHS money on a disgraceful computer cock-up in t6he Wessex region. At the centre of the cock-up was a giant (and disastrous) IBM computer, recommended by a consultant to the regional health authority who, by astonishing coincidence, sat on the board of IBM (when this was discovered, the IBM man was “asked to leave” and given a pay-off of £111,940).

Asked by a Tory MP if the Wessex saga was “a litany of slapdash, improper and quite unacceptable intromissions with public funds”, Nichol replied: “There is no doubt that that would be an appropriate description.” He also agreed that between 1987 and 1990 the statutory auditor had sent five reports to Nichol’s NHS management6 executive outlining “improprieties” in Wessex. Asked what he had done about them, Nichol insisted his department had “doggedly pursued a whole series of points about the management and mismanagement of this project”. But alas, he confessed, all that dogged pursuit turned out to be “a hopeless chase”.

Nichol was asked about the role of Andersen Consulting, a firm which had set out to advise the regional health authority on which computer firm to hire, and ended up getting the contract itself. An auditor reported: “Although several officers took exception at the time to the apparent conflict of interest, no remedial action was taken.” Nichol could not explain convincingly why he and his executive had done nothing about it. Soon after this outstanding performance, Mr Nichol was knighted.

Sir Duncan came across Andersen again in a more congenial atmosphere during his recent Health Care 2000 Inquiry. His deputy on the committee was Patricia Hewitt, director of research at Andersen Consulting. She became famous as policy coordinator to Neil Kinnock during his days as leader of the Labour Party when he campaigned with tremendous vigour against any dilution by private money of the National Health Service. She joined Andersen’s last year.

I’ve already blogged about how Patricia Hewitt became part of the New Labour project to destroy anything resembling Socialism in the Labour party. What’s interesting is the evidence from this article how far back the Tory plans to part privatise the NHS are. The idea that people should have to pay for extra NHS services appeared last year with the recommendation by the Labour, Lord Warner, that the NHS should start making charges for its services.

As for Andersen Consulting, they were perpetually in Private Eye because of repeated bungling and conflicts of interest. The effective destruction of the Benefits Agency and Inland Revenue was on their recommendations. Following the global recession created partly by the sub-prime mortgages fiasco, Andersen decided that they could only clean up their act by changing their name. Well, this shows how deeply the corruption, venality and incompetence went. They should never have been allowed anywhere near government.