Posts Tagged ‘Care Homes’

Vox Political: Tories Given £55 million by Hedge Funds

February 22, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has this story about the Conservatives having received £55 million in donations from the hedge funds:

Latest figures from the Electoral Commission reveal that in the last quarter (Q4 2014) hedge funds gave the Tories almost £2 million in donations, which means donations from the hedge fund industry to the Conservative Party now total more than £55 million, according to the Labour Party.

Hedge funds were given a tax cut worth £145m by George Osborne in 2013, and were offered hundreds of millions of pounds worth of shares in the Royal Mail when part of that national asset was sold off by the money-grubbing Coalition for a fraction of what it was worth.

Analysis of Conservative Party donations shows that almost £4 million of donations in the last quarter came from donors who have attended exclusive private dinners with David Cameron and other senior Ministers, taking the total to £11.65m from dinner donors in 2014

“The Tories are now the political wing of the hedge fund industry, said Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jonathan Ashworth.

Jonathan Ashworth also says that the Tories are failing ordinary, hardworking families because their priority is with the privileged few.

This is absolutely correct.

And not only does the receipt of such massive amounts from the hedge funds show the Tories skewed priorities, it’s also a real danger to this country’s health service and particularly the care homes for the handicapped and elderly. I’ve reblogged several stories from Private Eye, Johnny Void and Mike about the scandals that have erupted over the appalling mistreatment of residents and patients in several care homes. A number of these have been forced to close. Part of the problem is that the homes were run by hedge funds as part of a network of enterprises set up to avoid tax. The companies running the care homes were deliberately driven into multimillion pounds worth of debt, as part of this tax dodge. As a result, there was little investment, and so standards of care were appallingly low, and the homes themselves always vulnerable to collapse.

This is the health care system set up by these Tory donors. It will no doubt expand and get worse if the Tories get in at the next election and try to privatise the healthcare system even further.

Get rid of the Tories, and their financial paymasters.

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Desperate Tories: Grant Shapps Attacks Miliband for not being Businessman

February 16, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has this story about the Tories getting testy over Ed Miliband’s plans to boost small and medium businesses, Perhaps the Tories have all caught ‘foot in mouth’ disease at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/16/perhaps-the-tories-have-all-caught-foot-in-mouth-disease/. Grant Shapps, the Tories’ chairman, has poured scorn on Ed Miliband’s ability to run the economy, because he has never run a business.

As Mike and the commenters on the BBC’s website have pointed out, this is a bit rich coming from Shapps. Shapps has indeed run his own business, but not necessarily under his own name. His trading names have included ‘Mr Green’ and ‘Mr Shepard’. This is, of course, fraud.

As George Osborne, before he was made Chancellor of the Exchequer, the scion of the Baronet of Ballymoney had the exciting, dynamic post of folding towels in Harrods.

So these two senior Conservatives ain’t prime examples of successful, reputable business then.

Obama Also Not Fit for Leadership, ‘Cause Not Businessman

As for the jibe, this isn’t original either. It first emerged, like much of the Tories’ vile policies, amongst the Republicans in America. It was a sneer aimed at Obama, when he ran against Rand Paul. The Repugs despised the Senator from Chicago because he was a ‘community organiser’. Rand Paul, on the other hand, was a businessman, and therefore far superior.

Social Darwinism and Class Prejudice

This actually tells you much about the Social Darwinist assumptions of modern American – and British – politics. The Nazis also praised and supported the business elites, as they were obviously biologically superior to the rest of the German population. Far below them were the biologically inferior, who included not only those considered racially inferior like Jews, Gypsies, Blacks, Poles and Russians, but also the disabled and the unemployed.

Now the British and American Social Darwinism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries did not recommend their extermination. It did, however, argue for the sterilisation of the disabled and mentally handicapped, as well as, at one point, the unemployed if they sought poor relief. The attitude was also used to block welfare and health and safety legislation by big businessmen, on the grounds that if workers suffered from illness or work-related sicknesses, it was down to poor heredity rather than the constitution of society.

The same attitude is very much on display here. Obama didn’t run a business – he just looked after deadbeats. Miliband can’t run the economy! He’s not a genetically superior member of the business class.

This Social Darwinist attitude to the inequalities of the British class system is very much alive. One of the most viewed pieces on this blog is a post I wrote about the weird eugenicist views of Maggie’s mentor, Sir Keith Joseph. Joseph looked set to become leader of the Tories until he caused a massive storm with a Social Darwinist rant about how unmarried mothers, and other members of the underclass, were a threat to the British national stock.

It was an extraordinarily offensive rant, made all the more surprising coming Joseph, who as a Jew should have been very well aware of the dangers of this kind of reductionist, pseudo-scientific biology.

The Biological Superiority of the House of Lords

The same class prejudices re-emerged again back in the 1990s when Blair was reforming the House of Lords. One of the reforms was the proposed abolition, or reduction in the number of hereditary peers. This produced a storm of outrage from Conservatives, one of whom argued that the hereditary peers should be left alone. They were, he argued, biologically superior to the rest of us proles and tradesmen, because centuries of breeding had prepared them for position in government, to which they were also best fitted through their education.

Now clearly, the good Tory, who made that argument, probably hadn’t seen, and certainly wouldn’t have liked, the 1970s British film, The Ruling Class. This starred Peter O’Toole as a mad lord, who believes he is Jesus. Toole’s character then becomes villainous when he is cured. At one point the character has an hallucination about going into the House of Lords. The members of the august House are shown as cheering, cobwebbed corpses and skeletons. It was an image that I can remember from my childhood, when it shown on Nationwide all those decades ago, when they were similarly debating the issue of the House of Lords.

Economy and Society Has Sectors, That Cannot Be Run for Profit

In fact, the argument about business leadership providing the best people for the government of the country falls down on simple facts that Adam Smith, the founder of modern laissez-faire capitalism, himself recognised. States provide services that are absolutely necessary, but don’t in themselves generate a profit. Like the judicial system and the transport network. You can’t run the courts like a business, no matter what bonkers Anarcho-individualists like Rothbard and the Libertarians believe. Nevertheless, you need judges, lawyers and courts to provide the security of property that makes business, and indeed civil society, possible.

It’s the same with roads. Roads were run for a profit at the time Smith was writing through the turnpike system. Nevertheless, Smith argued that roads could be a problem to run as a business, and therefore could be best left to the central government as the organisation best suited to maintain them. While they would be a drain on the nation’s resources, good roads were absolutely vital, and so the economy, and therefore British society as a whole, benefited.

Welfare Spending and Unemployment Relief Stimulate the Economy

Similarly, Obama may not have been a businessman, but his work as a community organiser clearly benefited his constituents, who had not been as well served by private enterprise as they needed. And by improving their material conditions through political action, the economy also benefits. This was one of the reasons FDR in the 1930s adopted the minimal provision of unemployment relief in America. If workers actually have enough money to help through unemployment, the amount they spend stimulates the economy still further and actually helps beat the recession.

The Nation of Shopkeepers, sacrificed to Big Business

Finally, you could also argue that Ed’s background outside of business actually makes him more, not less suitable to run the economy. It was Napoleon, who sneered at Britain as ‘the nation of shopkeepers’, and the retail sector is still one of the largest areas of the British economy. Thousands, if not millions, of Brits would love to run their own business. Maggie’s whole image as somehow ‘working class’, spurious as it was, was based on her being the daughter of a shopkeeper.

In sharp contrast to this, Tory policy has consistently favoured big business over the small businessman, making the dreams of hundreds of thousands of people, who aspire to be the next Arkwrights and Granvilles unrealisable.

Modern Big Business Practices Destructive

And the models the Tories have also adopted for big business have resulted in the destruction of much of the economy. Way back in the 1980s and 1990s, Private Eye ran a series about the multi-millionaires brought with much pomp to manage successful, blue chip companies, who then failed spectacularly. These superstar managers ran their businesses into the ground. In some cases, almost literally. Yet after decimating the companies and their share price, the managers were then given a golden handshake and sent packing. Only to be given a similar directorship at another company, and begin the whole process all over again.

As for privatised companies like the railways, they are now in receipt of vastly more public subsidies than British rail, and provide a worse service. The amount of rolling stock has been reduced and ticket prices increased, all so that a set of super-managers can enjoy a life-style of luxury, all while providing a service that is barely acceptable.

The scandals of the privately run care homes, which have been found guilty of appalling low standards of care, and the neglect and abuse of their elderly or handicapped residents, are also partly a product of the same commercial culture. Many were acquired by hedge fund companies, who have deliberately run up millions of pounds worth of debts for them as part of a tax dodge. The result has been a very parlous financial situation for the homes, resulting in little investment and bankruptcy.

Compared to this business culture, it could be said that Ed Miliband’s background outside it is a positive advantage, and gives him excellent credentials to run the economy.

From 2001: Appalling Standards and Neglect at BUPA Care Home

February 1, 2015

I’ve put up several stories recently from Private Eye covering cases of the extremely low standards of care in private hospitals. As I’ve said before, these are important as the government is desperately trying to privatise the NHS under the assumption that private enterprise is more efficient than state provision. In their edition for the 30th November – 13 December 2001, the Eye ran this story about the abuse and neglect of patients in a BUPA care home in Kent.

Less Than Super-BUPA

While one of Bupa’s directors, Des Kelly, has been advising Tony Blair on care of the elderly, a Bupa care hom ein Kent has been at the centre of grave allegations of abuse and neglect.

Seven care workers who blew the whistle on a catalogue of cruelty, ill-treatment, doping with sedatives and the withholding of drugs and treatment at the £322-a-week Isard House in Bromley are due to be awarded compensation at employment tribunal this week.

Except that the seven – six women and one man – are boycotting the hearing and will refuse any payment from the UK’s biggest private health insurer and care provider. The reason? The careworkers say that though the tribunal found in their favour, it so diluted or ignored serious allegations and evidence that neither they – nor the vulnerable elderly people they sought to protect – have received justice, and they are challenging the tribunal’s decision in court.

The care workers are outraged that Bupa continued to employ the woman at the centre of the abuse against the subsequent advice of social services inspectors, at one stage trying to conceal the fact from them that she was working at a different vulnerable old people’s home. Bupa also promoted another, who is to face further allegations from the daughter of a resident who has recently been removed from the home.

The whistleblowers allege that Bupa has effectively been let off the hook.

They catalogued a series of abuse which went unchecked for nearly a year up to April 1999 within unit three at Isard House, which houses the most mentally and physically frail. Many suffer dementia, are unable to voice their concerns or needs and are dependent on carers for their most basic daily needs. They were hit, roughly handled, shouted and sworn at, goaded and verbally humiliated. They were left to lie or sit in their soiled clothing for to 18 hours. One developed dreadful sores. One man, R.H., had to search for staff on other units to change his catheter bag, which was overflowing and causing him immense pain.

In one of the worst examples a woman, D.H., who had not been given laxatives, was found to have an impacted bowel. She was taken to hospital but never recovered from pneumonia. Another was so overdosed on the tranquiliser Largactil she became unconscious.

Some of the staff had been regularly reporting concerns of cruelty and neglect to senior managers at the home and had been assured matters would be dealt with. In particular they were concerned that the unit’s team leader had bizarrely taken up residence in the unit, and seemed to control and encourage its punitive and cruel culture.

One of the whistleblowers, Eileen Chubb, was assured that evidence was being gathered in order to deal with this woman. When it became evident that nothing was happening and that the neglect was continuing unchecked, she and another worker, Karen Hook, went to Bromley social service inspectors.

An inquiry was launched and police were called in; but, partly because of the lapse of time and the difficulties of interviewing mentally and physically helpless old people, criminal charges were not considered. Once word spread around the home that complaints had been made and the team leader at the centre temporarily suspended, however, the whistleblowers say they were ostracised and bullied by other staff. They went off sick with stress. Shortly after they had a meeting with Mr Kelly in which they detailed their catalogue of concern and upon which they were convinced he would act.

Er … except that as their later industrial tribunal, lawyers for Bupa maintained that not only were the whistleblowers’ complaints unfounded, but they knew them to be false – ignoring the fact that they were risking their jobs when they went to social services.

Bupa maintained this defence despite a damning report into the home produced by Bromley’s inspection team. After a long investigation it described how the team leader had effectively moved into the home, using it “inappropriately for her recreational purposes” and how she was “primarily responsible for allowing the climate of abuses and neglectful behaviour to exist unchecked”.

It also detailed a string of incidents – ranging from wiping a resident’s face with a flannel with faecal material on it; inappropriate restraint of residents causing bruising; residents left in urine-soaked clothing; dosing patients with sedatives “for which there is no evidence of GP authorisation” and not giving them laxatives “with the possible outcome of distress and discomfort and indicating a disregard of residents’ needs.”

It concluded: “there are a significant number of witnesses amongst care staff, relatives and others who have been interviewed and who corroborate the original allegations … inappropriate behaviour towards them did occur in the manner suggested by the witnesses who have come forward and those subsequently interviewed.”

It condemned the lack of skilled staff on the unit, the long hours they worked and recommended a full investigation with appropriate disciplinary action. It is understood that because the inquiry team found that the abuse and failures were confined to unit three, and the bulk of the other residents in the home were well cared for, there was no recommendation to shut Isard House down because it would have caused too much distress to many residents who were settled and content. The aim was to clean up the act on unit three.

But at the tribunal the findings of the inspectorate were also challenged by Bupa. According to the tribunal findings, Mr Kelly had conducted disciplinary hearings against four staff named in the report – and in particular against the team leader. He found her explanations to be “entirely reasonable” . According to the tribunal report, Mr Kelly decided there was nothing in her response which he felt would constitute gross misconduct.

Despite its assertions at the tribunal, Bupa’s Claire Cater told the Eye it accepted there were issues that were wrong on unit three and steps were taken to correct them, including the immediate suspension of the team leader. “The issue has always been to what degree,” she said. “The inspection was long and drawn out and unhelpful. We did not get the witness statements for 14 months. Our own internal investigations revealed two different groups of people saying very different things. We went through everything and where we found things were far from ideal – for example with the regime for administering and recording drugs – we acted.”

She said Bupa’s job had also been made more difficult because of the “inconsistencies” in the statements of the whistleblowers. Some of the more serious allegations, regarding the safety of clients, had not been made in their original statements to inspectors but had come a year later. Bupa had a duty to test these inconsistencies to find out exactly what had happened, she said. The tribunal had found there had been some “exaggeration” in a few of the allegations, although it accepted they had been made in good faith.

She said the social services report indicated that the team leader should be demoted and retrained, but not dismissed. (However, a statement from Richard Turner of the inspectorate team says he contacted Mr Kelly at his home and by phone when he heard the woman was to be re-employed saying “it was unacceptable firstly because she was on bail with regard to allegations of theft and secondly that in our view she was implicated in both abuse and neglectful behaviour”.)

Bupa admits that staff member at one of the homes had panicked and tried to hide the fact that she had been re-deployed by tippexing her out of the rota. The inspectorate said: “The issue of tampering with records reflected on the fitness of senior Bupa managers and that employer her in a another home for the mentally elderly infirm was a ‘breach of statutory regulations’.

According to the whistleblowers, it was this woman’s reinstatement which led them finally to resign. The employment tribunal rejected this claim, suggesting that a six-week delay between learning of her reemployment and quitting their jobs meant it could not be the “final straw” as they protested. However, this was one of several tribunal findings that the whistleblowers hope to challenge. They maintain the delay came because they hoped Bromley social services inspectors would intervene as they had before.

What concerned the whistleblowers most was that while the tribunal found it credible “that incontinent residents might not be changed quickly and a culture had built up of not changing residents promptly”, the tribunal did not find it credible that residents would be neglected to the extent that they became “filthy and sore”. Yet the whistleblowers have the care plan of one resident showing that she had a sore which went through to the bone.

In another instance the tribunal accepted that while drugs sheets revealed that medication may not have been properly administered and/or the recording was deficient, it ignored evidence suggesting records may also have been falsified. (The Eye has several examples of drug sheets, indicating they have been fabricated.)

The seven whistleblowers have asked the lord chancellor’s department to investigate their claim that dozens of pieces of evidence presented to the tribunal – in particular the evidence other independent witnesses – have been overlooked. They have also filed for judicial review alleging bias and misconduct on the part of the tribunal, saying they did not get a fair hearing. It could be argued that it is not the role of an industrial tribunal to uncover levels of abuse. However, once Bupa decided to brand the whistleblowers as liars, they maintain the tribunal should have evaluated all the evidence. hence their decision not to attend and to try to block the compensation hearing. Eileen Chubb told the Eye: “We cannot fathom why Bupa would want to continue to employ abusers. We went to court firstly for a declaration of the truth of what was going on in that home – and secondly for compensation. We will not accept compensation if the price to be paid is the truth.”

As a result of events in Isard House, she and Karen Hook have now set up the non-profit making Compassion in Care, which will publish a handbook for families on what to look for in a care home and how to keep elderly relatives safe. They fund it by working as office cleaners at night. But some good may yet come of the tribunal hearing. As a result of its scrutiny of drug and medical records, Kent police have been re-examining the drug sheets and it is understood a file has been sent to the DPP.

What is of concern is not just the poor standard of care and abuse of the residents at the care home, but the fact that BUPA appeared more concerned with its reputation and discrediting the whistleblowers than in improving the standards in the home. It should also be a matter of real concern that BUPA’s director, Des Kelly, was advising the government’s health policy at the time the abuse was occurring, and was involved in an attempts to cover up the abuse and discredit the whistleblowers.

The Eye subsequently published many more stories of abuse and neglect at care homes, and there will be more still if the government goes ahead to privatise and deregulate the NHS and care homes still further.

From 2013: Neglect and Low Standards at Bupa Care Homes in Scotland

April 18, 2014

This is from Private Eye’s edition for the 1st – 14th November 2013.

Bupa in Scotland

Home Affront

Something appears to be seriously wrong within Bupa care homes in Scotland.

Company bosses were summoned to a meeting with Scottish health secretary Alex Neil last month after it emerged that police were investigating the deaths of four elderly residents at Pentland Hill care home in Edinburgh.

Bupa has also just apologised to the family of a 78-year-old terminally ill woman who was found screaming in agony in the lounge of Eastbank, another “leading” care home in Glasgow, last July. By the time Eastbank acquired the morphine she desperately needed, Mrs Margaret Hall had died. six months earlier Mrs Hall’s dau8ghter had found her mother shivering in a cold bath.

Pentland and Eastbank are not the only Bupa homes with a history of poor care. Private Eye and the charity Compassion in Care (CiC) have found that of the chain’s 30 care homes in Scotland, there were seriously failings at ten and nine give some cause for concern. Teny were found to consistently good; while one, Balcarres, a small home for 36 in Dundee, stands out as consistently “excellent”. (Our list is very similar to the 21 – slight more – Bupa homes that the Scotland Care Inspectorate currently consider “high” or medium” risk and subject to frequent unannounced inspections).

Pentland, a home for around 120 residents, some with dementia, is now closed to new admissions after the inspectorate found residents had been left without food or water, along with evidence of poor care, dangerous medication practices, poor management and untrained staff. Since then four more complaints, unrelated to the criminal investigation, have been made.

The warning signs about Pentland were not new. The home has barely been rated above “weak” or “adequate” since a former care worker was jailed in 2010 for dragging an 86-year-old resident along the floor, leaving her bruised and bleeding.

It is a similar tale at Eastbank, where Mrs Hall suffered her agonising death. The home’s chequered past dates back to 2007 when Margaret Carroll, who had dementia, died of heart failure after staff failed to notice that she had broken her hip, needing immediate treatment. It was not until her paramedic son visited some 12 hours later that an ambulance was called. Since 2009 its care has never been rated better than “adequate” or “weak”.

After studying a list of serious upheld complaints and recent inspection reports, and after hearing concerns from relatives and staff about some of the Bupa homes, the Eye finds that the reality of “weak” or “adequate” ratings can actually mean misery and neglect for residents.

One of the worst is Darnley Court, another large Bupa home with 120 residents Glasgow. Since at least the beginning of 2011 it has had many serious problems, including poor pressure care, nutrition, hydration and medication, along with a high level of accidents. There has also been a shortage of properly trained staff. In June inspectors called a meeting with managers and local authority representatives – but to no avail, it seems. The inspection report in August made distressing reading.

“We continued to have significant concerns about the level and nature of care,” said the inspectors, who found that medication was being used as a chemical cosh, rather than a last resort, and that some staff were “desensitised” to their vulnerable charges. Personal healthcare and oral care were poor, with several residents sitting without their dentures; there was no evidence of teeth cleaning and toiletries weren’t available.
Inspectors found one resident slumped over and unable to eat until they called for assistance, and food was out of reach for others. Despite previous warning there was no proper monitoring of residents who were at risk of malnutrition.

There had been 17 cases of staff misconduct resulting in dismissal or warning, which the home had not reported to the care inspectorate as it should have. Nor were injuries to residents properly reported.

Rather than properly address Darnley’s serious failings, however, Bupa commissioned a glossy in-house “satisfaction” survey so it could claim on its website: “Darnley Court provides exceptional care and support for those requiring long or short term care”.

Another Bupa home with a poor history, Victoria Manor in Edinburgh, was downgraded by inspectors from “adequate” to “weak” after complaints that a resident had developed pressure sores, and call bells were not answered. At understaffed Deanfield in Glasgow, one of 10 care homes Bupa has in the area, inspectors found that just “adequate” care was being “further compromised” by staff being sent to provide emergency cover in other understaffed homes.

At one of those, Millview in Barrhead, inspectors alerted Bupa’s regional manager about serious problems with residents’ money and valuables. They discovered that a “large sum” which had belonged to a resident who had died more than three years previously had not been passed to family or an executor. Even more worryingly, nor was the home alerting inspectors to deaths.

Even at Kirknowe, a home for 90 residents in Wishaw which is currently rated “very good”, the Eye discovered that six complaints from two people had been upheld this year, two relating to hydration and nutrition, another to oral care and one to infection control. Kirknowe hit the headlines last year when a member of staff thought it funny to feed a dog biscuit to a resident with dementia.

Problems persist too a Haydale, another Glasgow home which has barely been graded above weak or adequate since it opened in 2008, and Braid Hills in Edinburgh; while at Arran View in Saltcoats, a vulnerable resident “escaped” while inspectors were at the home.

For this, Bupa charges from £550 to £1,200 a week, depending on the level of care required. Those with dementia with most needs often pay higher fees, but receive the worst treatment. Bupa – which posted profits of £59.2m for all its services in Britain in the first six months of the year – is a private limited company which boasts that it “re-invests in more and better healthcare”. It is certainly investing heavily in rapid expansion worldwide.

A spokesman for the inspectorate told the Eye: “We have worked intensively to help Bupa make improvements in each of these homes, and have seen evidence of limited improvement. If care persists as weak or unsatisfactory, like at Pentland Hill, these homes will face enforcement action or face potential closure.”

In a statement, Richard Jackson, operations director of Bupa Care Services, said that 26 of its 30 care homes “meet or exceed” inspection standards and that the other four “all have robust action plans in place and improvements continue to be made”, adding “over 100,000 people with complex and challenging conditions have been well looked after in our care homes.

“We are sorry when anything goes wrong, however rarely. But we are open and transparent when it does and take immediate action. We invest whatever resources are needed to put things right and to try to prevent them from happening again.”

Bupa added that because its homes were listed high and medium on the inspectorate rsk list, did not mean “there is neglect or poor care”. A change of manager or an out-of-work lift could trigger an alert.

But Eileen Chubb of Cic accused Mr Jackson of playing down serious concerns: “Complacent acceptance of weak or adequate care is not acceptable by any company with a duty to care for frail, vulnerable people.”

This is of serious concern, not just because of the history of abuse, neglect and even what very much looks like theft from a resident in the care homes themselves, but because Bupa is one of private healthcare companies that has expanded over the previous decades due to successive governments’ attacks on the NHS. And Bupa aren’t the only one. There have been other instances of appalling neglect and abuse in others, including one near Bristol, which were owned by a private equity firm. Care homes are expensive, to the point that many people find them almost unaffordable and for such neglect to occur is disgusting. Yet such abuse is not reported to the same extent as neglect or abuse in the NHS, as the government attempts to privatise even more of the health service.

From 2010: Private Eye on the Failures of Jarvis, Vertex, Liberata and other Private Contractors

April 10, 2014

This is the from the Eye’s issue for 17th -30th September 2010:

Outsourcing

A Private Dysfunction

Government cost-cutting plans to outsource more and more services could herald a series of cock-ups as companies running the services go the same way in tough economic times as PFI and rail maintenance company Jarvis and, last week, housing maintenance company Connaught.

Alongside the usual suspects of Capita, Serco et al, many previously unheard of outsourcers are eying up contracts even though they have limited track records and shaky finances. Several are owned by a private equity industry that sees outsourcing as the next quick buck and are accordingly borrowed up to the eyeballs. Fine if they succeed, quick disaster if they don’t.

One such outsourcer is Vertex, chaired by Sir Peter Gershon. As David Cameron’s productivity adviser before the election, Gershon counselled: “a new government faces a massive and complex agenda of driving savings to close the deficit. It ought to simplify this agenda by deciding that all back office transactional functions will be outsourced within 18 months …” Coincidentally, this will hugely benefit his employer Vertex, which already has “contact Centre” and other service contracts with JobCentre Plus and councils including Westminster and Hertfordshire.

Vertex needs all the business it can get. In the two years ended 31 march 2009 it lost £43m, largely because of £35m in finance costs brought about by the huge debts (£215m in 2009) that come with private equity ownership, and which leave Vertex with liabilities exceeding its assets. Since 2008 Vertex has been owned by a consortium of US private equity firms.

Another firm in even firer financial straits is Liberata, which runs finance, payroll, IT, maintenance and any number of other services for councils from Somerset to Manchester and in Whitehall for the Justice ministry and culture department, among others. it is owned by private equity outfits General Atlantic Partners Ltd and GAP-W International, and groans under liabilities exceeding its assets by £67m and losses in the last two years running to £91m. Most arose on its pension schemes, which by last year had run up a combined deficit of £81m. In September, Liberata brought in a Serco and Crapita veteran, Dermot Joyce, to turn things round.

When Jarvis failed to turn things round and went into administration earlier this year, 1,000 “outsourced” workers lost their jobs and there was no money left for redundancy payments. With public services thrown at the mercy of a volatile private equity market, they might well not be the last.

Several of the care homes, which were in the new a year or so ago for poor care and appalling abuse inflicted to their miserable inmates were similarly owned by private equity firms. These firms regarded them solely as a source of profit, and were not interested in providing good quality care to their disabled and mentally retarded wards. They may also have been in similar perilous financial condition.

As for Gershon’s relationship with David Cameron, this seems to be the norm with Tory party politics and privatisation. The Skwawkbox blogged earlier this week about the connection between George Osborne and one of the companies that made a massive profit from the privatisation of the Royal Mail. It’s time this was all stopped.

The Types of People Sleeping Rough according to Labour 1998 Report

February 22, 2014

This is a response to Mike’s blog piece reporting the eviction of two of his friends in the Welsh town in which he lives, which I’ve already reblogged from Vox Political. 16 years ago in 1998 New Labour attempted to tackle the problem of homelessness and other social problems through their Social Exclusion Unit. This produced a report identifying the types of people forced to sleep rough. In his foreword, Blair stated that

It is a source of shame for all of us, that there are still about 2,000 people out on the streets around England every night and 10,000 sleep rough over the course of a year.

That number has almost certainly increased since then. One of the homeless charities, according to Private Eye, has said that this Christmas (2013), about 60,000 children would be homeless due to government cuts. These would not be sleeping rough, but housed in Bed and Breakfast after their families were evicted from their homes. Even if these children still have some kind of roof over their head, this is still very definitely not unacceptable. If the situation was shameful in the last years of the 1990s, the government’s attitudes seems positively shameless in the way they have massively exacerbated the problem.

The report gave the following information

Chapter 1: Who Sleeps Rough?

1.6 The information we have tells us that:

* There are very few rough sleepers aged under 18;
* around 25 per cent are between 18 and 25;
* six per cent are over 60; and
* around 90 per cent are male.

1.9 The single most common reason given for the first episode of rough sleeping is relationship breakdown, either with parents or partner:
* research by Centrepoint with homeless young people across the country found that 86 per cent had been forced to leave home rather than choosing to…
1.10 Older homeless people also identify family crisis as key with the main factor being widowhood and marital breakdown, as well as eviction, redundancy and mental illness…
1.11 A disproportionate number of rough sleepers have experience of some kind of institutional life.
1.12 Between a quarter and a third of rough sleepers have been looked after by local authorities as children.
1.13 Unlike other young people leaving home, many care leavers lack any sort of on-going parental support which can act as a back up when a first attempt at independent living goes wrong …
1.14 Around half of rough sleepers have been in prison or a remand centre … Those who have been in prison typically experience serious problems obtaining both housing and jobs, frequently exacerbated by the problems of relationship breakdown, drugs etc ….
1.16 Repeated studies have found that between a quarter and one fifth of all rough sleepers have been in the services …
1.17 Some 30-50 per cent of rough sleepers suffer from mental health problems. The great majority (88 per cent) of those with mental health problems became ill before they became homeless.
1.18 Research does not support the widespread belief that the closure of long-term psychiatric hospitals has resulted in former patients sleeping rough…
1.19 As many as 50 per cent of rough sleepers have a serious alcohol problem and some 20 per cent misuse drugs…
1.20 Rough sleepers are disproportionately likely to have missed school…
1.21 Generally, single people will only get assistance under the homelessness legislation if they are unintentionally homeless and in priority need…
1.22 Researchers … agree that a number of changes in social security policy … in the late 1980s were closely associated with a squeeze on the ability of single people on low incomes to gain access to suitable housing…

From Rough Sleeping Report by the Social Exclusion Unit, CM4008, July 1998, pp. 1, 4-6, 16, in Margaret Jone and Rodney Lowe, From Beveridge to Blair: The First Fifty Years of Britain’s Welfare State 1948-98 (Manchester: Manchester University Press 2002) 189-91.

Mike’s friends have not been institutionalised, nor, as far as I know, do they have mental health or drug problems. They are ‘strivers’, similar to those made homeless according to paragraph 1.22: Researchers … agree that a number of changes in social security policy … in the late 1980s were closely associated with a squeeze on the ability of single people on low incomes to gain access to suitable housing….

And with the bedroom tax and caps on Housing Benefit now in place, there are going to be many more of them. All so the Tories’ friends in the housing sector can get richer.

From 2008: Private Eye on Bupa’s Reluctance to Apologise and the Explain the Death of One Woman’s Mother

July 23, 2013

Five years ago Private Eye carried this story about Bupa’s attempts to silence Dee Sedgwick and its reluctance to provide an apology and explanation for the death of her mother from the treatment she received at Highfield, one of its care homes in Halesworth in Suffolk.

‘Bupa

A Sorry Tale

News that Bupa chief executive Val Gooding is stepping down and leaving Britain’s largest private healthcare provider “in rude health” has angered one former client who has battled with the company for years over the death of her mother.

Three years ago the Eye reported how Bupa threatened legal action to halt Dee Sedgwick’s efforts to extract an apology and explanation for the company’s neglectful treatment of her mother, Joan Gaddes, in one of its care homes.

Mrs Gaddes, aged 82, had died in hospital in September 2002, a month after being admitted from Highfield, a residential home in Halesworth, Suffolk, suffering dehydration and weight loss. Pressure sores on her back and heels had become gangrenous.

In the weeks and days leading up to Mrs Gaddes’ admission to hospital, her daughter had expressed concerns about her failing health and loss of eight and about the company’s failure to do anything meaningful to reduce summer heatwave temperatures within the home. She had even asked for her mother to be placed on a drip because she appeared so dehydrated, only to be told it wasn’t necessary.

Angry that the care home and managers did not appear to be taking her complaints seriously Mrs Sedgwicfk had written to Bupa’s senior executives, including Val Gooding, at their homes, setting out her grievances. Bupa’s initial response was a hand delivered letter from City law firm Roseblatts, threatening legal action for harassment of staff who said they felt “threatened”. Undeterred, Mrs Sedgwick decided she too would deliver her letters by hand as well as by fax. “Quite frankly I would have liked them to take me to court to get a public airing of my complaints. But they were never going to do that,” she told the Eye.

Instead Bupa finally agreed to fund legal representation for the family and have a round table meeting with Paul Newton of Bupa’s legal department and Matthew Flinton, head of care services. Val Gooding was said to be on the end of a phone should it prove necessary.

The result? A three-page detailed letter of regret and apology, a damning indictment of the home’s care of Mrs Gaddes and a final vindication of Mrs Sedgwick’s prolonged fax and letter campaign to Bupa’s chiefs.

Bupa admitted not properly monitoring changes in her eight and health; not properly assessing her nutritional needs and fluid intake; and not taking proper care to ensure she did not develop pressure sores. “Had your mother’s weight loss and fluid intake requirements been properly assessed and monitored, it may have led to your mother’s health having been more closely monitored by the NHS. We apologise for this failure.”

It also went on to apologise for not carrying out an assessment before she entered Highfield, which Mrs Sedgwick maintained was not suited to caring for Mrs Gaddes, who had mild to moderate dementia; for losing her belongings including her false teeth; for not taking adequate steps to ameliorate the heatwave conditions at the home; for “unsatisfactory” administration of her medication; and for initially failing to provide key documents to those carrying out the independent inspections because they were “missing”.

“We also regret and apologise for the length of time, which it has taken to provide you and your family with appropriate resolution in respect of your concerns,” said the letter. It had taken five years.

Unfortunately Mrs Sedgwick’s battle is not quite over. The Commission for Social Care Inspection has completed no fewer than six versions of its report into Mrs Gaddes’ care, which Mrs Sedgwick says has failed to get to grips with what went wrong at Highfield – not least because the CSCI dismissed some of her complaints that have now been admitted by Bupa.’

Another example of horrific malpractice by one of the private firms hoping to take business from the dismantled NHS. Bupa’s refusal to respond to Mrs Sedgwick’s letters to them on the grounds that this was ‘harassment’ also sounds terribly familiar. Oh yes, it’s the reason the DWP under Ian Duncan Lies is not answering queries about the number of disabled people, who have committed suicide due to their assessment by Atos. It seems to be another trick the Conservatives have picked up from their friends in the private sector.

Private Eye on Abuse and Neglect at Beech House Private Care Home

July 22, 2013

After covering several stories of abuse and neglect at private care homes, Private Eye ran another story about the poor care given to adults suffering from learning difficulties and ‘challenging behaviour’ at the private Beech House hospital in Newmarket in their 24th August -6th September 2012 edition. Here it is.

‘Care Homes

A Private Concern

More evidence emerges that big business and private-equity firms are among the worst offenders when it comes to running poor care homes.

Last month Eye 1319 revealed how the ever-expanding Priory Group and Craegmoor-owned by the American private-equity firm Advent International – were the owners of two of the 18 homes and hospitals found to be failing to protect its young disabled residents during Care Quality Commission inspections.

Another found by the care watchdog to have “major concerns” was Beech House in Newmarket, an independent hospital that houses 30 adults with learning difficulties and challenging behaviour. Inspectors found residents were “being restrained unnecessarily ” by staff who were “authoritarian” and “very controlling”. All external and internal doors were locked, even though this was a “low secure hospital”.

Issuing enforcement notices against the hospital, inspectors concluded that patients were “not being protected from abuse, or the risk of abuse”.

Beech House is part of the Four Seasons group, which also owns six homes listed as “moderate concern” by the inspectors. Four Seasons has been bought and sold by private-equity firms for years: Terra Firma, the private-equity outfit run by Guy Hands, was the latest to buy it, for £800m in April.

Another of the 18 presenting “major concerns” was Elmsmead in Taunton, a home for a dozen young adults with learning difficulties, where inspectors found poor care planning and a “strong small of urine” in the lounge, suggesting poor continence care. Elmstead is part of the Voyage Care chaine of homes, which also runs the Rhodelands home in Devon, where inspectors recorded “moderate” concerns-and Voyage Care is owned by private-equity firm HG Capital.

Overall in its inspection of 150 institutions, the CQC found that privately owned “independent” homes were twice as likely to fail at both care and safeguarding as those run by the NHS. Eye readers know well the debacle surrounding the collapse of Southern Cross (private-equity owner, Blackstone), the largest provider of care for the elderly – much of it poor.

But the government remains ideologically wedded to greater private investment in health and social care from its business mates and associates. Guy Hands is a close friend of William Hague, and Ian Armitage, chair of HG Capital, gave £30,500 to David Willetts “research fund” and the Tory party between 2007 and 2010.

* Now taxpayers’ money is also being handed over to private enterprise from the care watchdog itself. For the past two years the CQC has been handing monthly sums, in the region of £500,000 or above, to Carlisle Managed Solutions, for staff and services to just about every division of the commission, from registration to regulation, from finance to intelligence – and even to the chair and chief executive’s office. So far Carlisle Managed Solutions has pocketed some £13.66m. It just happened to be owned by Impellam, the so-called global “human capital services company”-owned by the family trust of none other than tax-haven enthusiast and Tory party benefactor Lord Ashcroft.’

So there it is in black and white: privately run hospitals are more inefficient, and offer worse care than the NHS. But thanks to their connections to Tory leaders like Hague and Ashcroft, they’re set to be give more of the NHS.

Private Eye on Failure of Care at More Care Hospitals owned by American Private Equity Firms

July 20, 2013

I blogged yesterday on the scandalous conditions and abuse of patients at Winterbourne View, a residential hospital run by a private equity firm. Looking back through Private Eye I found more cases of neglect and abuse of people with learning difficulties in care homes run by the Priory Group, owned by Advent International, another private equity firm. This article was published in their 27th July-12th August edition last year.

‘Care Homes

Priory Engagement

The Priory group and its Craegmoor subsidiary boast that they “transform lives”. but they seem less happy to see their brand on their ever expanding care home portfolio when things go wrong.

When the Care Quality Commission’s unannounced checks revealed shortcomings in facilities for the learning disabled, no criticism was levelled at “Europe’s leading specialist care provider” to tarnish its self-proclaimed “unrivalled reputation”. That is because two of the group’s homes criticised by the CQC for failing to protect the safety and welfare of its young residents, Lammas Lodge in Hereford and Melling Acres in Liverpool, are registered in the name of Parkcare Homes, which took all the blame and bad publicity in the specialist media.

In September last year, following an anonymous tip, inspectors found residents at risk of abuse in Lammas Lodge, a home for young adults. There were not enough staff and what staff there were, inspectors found, were not properly trained to meet residents’ complex needs. There were six major areas of concern, including care and welfare, medication and safeguarding. The home, which was warned it must improve or face closure, has since been given a clean bill of health by the regulators.

Not so Melling Acres, where inspectors reported major concerns in May about the care and welfare of its seven residents – care plans were poor, with scant information about physical health needs, there were limited activities and a lack of advocacy to enable people to express concerns about their care.

The Priory Group and Craegmoor are owned by the American private equity firm Advent International, whose continuing expansion into the industry (it has recently acquired 11 Harbour Care homes on the south coast) is causing some concern.

The collapse last year of Southern Cross showed that care homes, private equity and poor financial and care regulation can lead to a toxic cocktail for the people in care. Sale and leaseback deals on the care home property portfolio itself enabled profits to be creamed off by Southern Cross’s private equity owner, Blackstone, before the credit crunch meant Southern Cross could no longer afford its landlords’ rising rents.

As Eye readers may recall, Philip Scott – the former Southern Cross chief executive who was in charge during the boom years but bailed out, selling his personal stake for £11m just before sales started to plunge-went on to become CEO at the Priory Group. Interestingly, he has this month announced he is to quit.

Is history about to repeat itself? The group has recently reduced its earnings forecast by 7 per cent, blaming the squeeze on NHS budges for a fall in patients. Will Scott retain his equity stake in the group-and will he continue to rent various care properties back to the Priory Group via his property companies? Watch this space.’

I’ve no doubt that there are care homes excellently run, where their patients are comfortable and well-looked after. The combination of private equity firms, which are primarily interested in making a quick, big buck, and residential and care homes is too vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, however.