Posts Tagged ‘Care UK’

The Beeb’s Biased Reporting of NHS Privatisation

January 2, 2020

The Corporation’s General Right-wing Bias

The BBC is infamous for its flagrant right-wing bias. Writers and experts like Barry and Savile Kushner in their Who Needs the Cuts, academics at the media research centres of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff Universities, and ordinary left-wing bloggers like Mike and Zelo Street have pointed out time and again that the corporation massively prefers to have as commenters and guests on its show Conservative MPs and spokespeople for the financial sector on its news and political comment programmes, rather than Labour MPs and activists and trade unionists. The Corporation relentless pushed the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. But it has also promoted the privatisation of the NHS too through its biased reporting.

Biased Towards NHS Privatisation

Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis’ book on the privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS, has a chapter by Oliver Huitson, ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’, discussing the biased reporting of the NHS’s privatisation by the media in general. Here, however, I will just confine myself to describing the Corporation’s role. The Beeb was frequently silent and did not report vital pieces of information about successive privatisations, such as the involvement of private healthcare companies in demanding them and conflicts of interest. On occasion, this bias was actually worse than right-wing rags like the Daily Mail. Although these ardently supported the NHS’ privatisation, they frequently reported these cases while the Beeb did not. When the moves towards privatisation were reported, they were often given a positive spin. For example, the establishment of the Community Care Groups, groups of doctors who are supposed to commission medical services from the private sector as well as from within the NHS, and which are legally allowed to raise money from the private sector, were positively described by the Corporation as ‘giving doctors more control’.

Lack of Coverage of Private Healthcare Companies Role in Privatisation

David Cameron and Andrew Lansley did not include Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill in the Tories’ 2010 manifesto, because they didn’t believe they’d win the election if they did. But in all the two years of debate about the bill, the Beeb only twice reported doubts about the bill’s democratic mandate. (p.152). In October 2010, Mark Britnell was invited to join Cameron’s ‘kitchen cabinet’. Britnell had worked with the Labour government and was a former head of commissioning for the NHS. But he was also former head of health for the accountancy firm, KPMG, which profits greatly from government privatisation and outsourcing. He declared that the NHS would be shown ‘no mercy’ and would become a ‘state insurance provider, not a state deliverer’. But the BBC decided not to report all this until four days after others had broken the story. And when they did, it was only to explain a comment by Nick Clegg about how people are confused when they hear politicians stating how much they love the NHS while at the same time demanding its privatisation. (pp.153-4).

On 21 November 2011 Channel 4 News reported that they had obtained a document which showed clearly that GP commissioning was intended to create a market for private corporations to come in and take over NHS services. But This was only reported by the Groaniad and the Torygraph. The rest of the media, including the Beeb, ignored it. (pp. 156-7).

Lansley was also revealed to have received donations from Andrew Nash, chairman of Care UK, another private healthcare firm hoping to profit from NHS privatisation. But this also was not reported by the Corporation. (pp. 157-8).

In January 2011 the Mirror reported that the Tories had been given over £750,000 from donors with major connections to private healthcare  interests since David Cameron had become their chief in 2005. But this was also not mentioned by the Beeb. (pp. 158).

The Mirror also found that 40 members of the House of Lords had interests in NHS privatisation, while the Social Investigations blog suggested that it might be as high as 142. The BBC, along with several papers, did not mention this. (pp. 158-9).

Sonia Poulton, a writer for the Heil, stated on her blog that 31 Lords and 18 MPs have very lucrative interests in the health industry. But this was also ignored by the Beeb, along with the rest of the media with the exception of the Guardian. (p. 159).

The Tory MP, Nick de Bois, was a fervent support of the Tories’ NHS privatisation. He is a majority shareholder in Rapier Design Group, which purchased Hampton Medical Conferences, a number of whose clients were ‘partners’ in the National Association of Primary Care, another group lobbying the Tories for NHS privatisation. This was also not reported by the Beeb. (pp. 159-60).

The Beeb also chose not to report how Lord Carter of Coles, the chair of the Co-operation and Competition Panel charged with ensuring fair access to the NHS for private healthcare companies, was also receiving £799,000 per year as chairman of McKesson Information Solutions, part of the massive American McKesson healthcare company. (p. 160).

There were other links between politicos, think tanks, lobby groups and private healthcare companies. The health regulator, Monitor, is dominated by staff from McKinsey and KPMG. But this also isn’t mentioned by the press. (pp. 160-1).

Beeb Falsely Presents Pro-Privatisation Think Tanks as ‘Independent

The BBC, along with much of the rest of the media, have also been responsible for misrepresenting spokespeople for pro-privatisation lobby groups as disinterested experts, and the organisations for which they speak as just independent think tanks. This was how the Beeb described 2020health.org, whose chief executive, Julia Manning, was twice invited onto the air to discuss the NHS, and an entire article was given over to one of her wretched organisation’s reports. However, SpinWatch reported that its chairman, former Tory minister Tom Sackville, was also CEO of the International Federation of Health Plans, representing of 100 private health insurance companies. Its advisory council includes representatives of AstraZeneca, NM Rothschild, the National Pharmaceutical Association, Nuffield private hospital group, and the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services. (p. 162).

Another lobby group whose deputy director, Nick Seddon, and other employees were invited onto the Beeb to discuss the proposals was Reform. Seddon was head of communications at Circle, the first private healthcare company to take over an NHS hospital. Seddon’s replacement at Circle was Christina Lineen, a former aide to Andrew Lansley. None of this was reported by the Beeb. Their corporate partners included companies like Citigroup, KPMG, GlaxoSmithKline and Serco. Huitson states ‘Through Seddon’s and other Reform Staffs’ appearances, the BBC may have facilitated private sector lobbying on a publicly funded platform without making relevant interests known’. (163).

Beeb Did Not Cover Protests and Opposition to Bill

Pages 164-5 also discusses the Beeb’s refusal, with few exceptions, to interview critics of Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill, the rightwing bias of panels discussing it and how the Beeb did not cover protests against it or its discussion in parliament. Huitson writes

At the BBC opportunities were frequently missed to provide expert opposition to the bill on a consistent basis. the RCGP’s Clare Gerada was largely the exception to this rule. Many of the most well-known and authoritative critics of the bill – the likes of professors Allyson Pollock or Colin Leys, doctors Jacky Davis and Wendy Savage from Keep Our NHS Public – never appeared on the BBC to discuss the plans. Davis recalls being invited to appear on the BBC a number of times but the item was cancelled on every occasion. ‘Balance’ is supposedly one of the BBC’s primary objectives yet appearing on the Today programme of 1 February 2012 to discuss the bill, for instance, were Shirley Williams (who voted in favour of the bill, however reluctantly), Nick Seddon of ‘independent’ Reform (pro-Bill), Steve Field (pro-Bill) and Chris Ham (pro-Bill). It’s difficult to see how that is not a breach of BBC guidelines and a disservice to the public. One of the fundamental duties of an open media is to ensure that coverage is not skewed towards those with the deepest pockets. And on that issue the media often performed poorly.

Further criticism of the BBC stems from its curious lack of NHS coverage during the climactic final month before the bill was passed in the House of Lords on 19 March. One such complaint came from blogger and Oxford Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology Dorothy Bishop, who wrote to the BBC to ask why it had failed to cover a number of NHS stories in March, including an anti-bill petition that had been brought to the House by Lord Owen, carrying 486,000 signatures of support. In reply, the BBC confirmed that the bill had been mentioned on the Today programme in March prior to the bill’s passing, though just once. Bishop replied:’So, if I have understood this right, during March, the Today programme covered the story once, in an early two-minute slot, before the bill was passed. Other items that morning included four minutes on a French theme park based on Napoleon, six minutes on international bagpipe day and eight minutes on Jubilee celebrations.’

Other BBC omissions include Andrew Lansley being heckled by angry medical staff at a hospital in Hampstead, as reported by both the Mail and Sky News. On 17 March a peaceful anti-bill march took place in central London. Those out protesting for their national health service found themselves kettled by riot police despite being one of the most harmless-looking crowds you’re ever likely to see. The protest and the shameful police response were completely ignored by the media, except for a brief mention on a Guardian blog. On social media numerous examples have been reported of protests and actions opposing the bill that were entirely absent from national coverage.

Then, on 19 March, the day of the final vote on the bill, the BBC ran not a single article on the event, despite this being one of the most bitterly opposed pieces of legislation in recent history – it was as if the vote was not taking place. The next day, with the bill passed, they ran a full seven articles on the story. Three days after the bill passed, Radio 4 broadcast The Report: ‘Simon Cox asks: why is NHS reform mired in controversy?’ Why this was not broadcast before the Lords’ vote is a mystery. 

When the Bill was passed, the bill scrolling across the BBC News’ screen ran ‘Bill which gives power to GPs passes’. (166). Huitson remarks that when the Beeb and the other news networks reported that the Bill gave power to GPs and allowed a greater role for the private sector, it was little more than regurgitating government press releases. (p. 168).

Beeb Bias Problem Due to Corporation’s Importance and Domination of Broadcast News

Huitson also comments on the specific failure of the Beeb to provide adequate coverage of NHS privatisation in its role as one of the great British public institutions, the dominant role it has in British news reporting. On pages 169-70 he writes

Campaigners may not expect more from the Sun but they certainly do from the BBC, given its status as an impartial public service broadcaster whose news gathering is supported directly by licence fee payers. The BBC accounts for 70 per cent of news consumption on television. Further, the BBC accounts for 40 per cent of online news read by the public, three times that of its closes competitor, the Mail. Quite simply, the BBC dominates UK news. The weight given to the BBC here is not purely down to its dominance, however, but also because, along with the NHS, the BBC remains one of our great public institutions, an entity that is supposedly above commercial pressures. Many of the stories ignored by the BBC were covered by the for-profit, right-wing press, as well as the Guardian and Channel 4, so the concern is not that the organisation failed to ‘campaign’ for the NHS, but that it failed to report facts that other outlets found newsworthy.

The BBC’#s archive of TV and radio coverage is neither available for the public to research nor technically practical to research, but there are a number of reasons for confidence that their online content is highly indicative of their broader output. First, BBC online is a fully integrated part of the main newsroom rather than a separate operation. Consequently, TV and radio coverage that can be examined is largely indistinguishable from the related online content, as demonstrated in the examples given above. During the debate of Lansley’s bill, the BBC TV and radio were both subject to multiple complaints, the figures for which the BBC has declined to release.

Beeb’s Reporting of NHS Privatisation as Biased as Coverage of Miners’ Strike

He also compares the Beeb’s coverage of the bill, along with that of the rest of the media, to its similarly biased reporting of the miners’ strike.

The overall media coverage of the health bill brings to mind a quote from BBC radio correspondent Nicholas Jones, on the BBC’s coverage of the miners’ strike: ‘stories that gave prominence to the position of the National Union of Miners could simply be omitted, shortened or submerged into another report.’ (pp. 172-3).

Conclusion

The Beeb does produce some excellent programmes. I really enjoyed last night’s Dr. Who, for example. But the right-wing bias of its news reporting is now so extreme that in many cases it is fair to say that it is now a propaganda outlet for the Tory party and big business. It’s utterly indefensible, and in my view it will only be reformed if and when the newsroom and its managers are sacked in its entirety. In the meantime, Boris and the rest of the Tories are clamouring for its privatisation. Godfrey Bloom, one of the more prominent Kippers, has also put up a post or two in the past couple of days demanding precisely that.

If the Beeb was genuinely impartial, it would have defenders on the Left. But it is rapidly losing them thanks to its bias. And to the Tories, that’s also going to be a plus.

Thanks to the Beeb’s own Tory bias, it’s going to find it very hard to combat their privatisation.

And in the meantime they will have helped destroy the most valued of British institutions, the NHS, and free, universal healthcare to Britain’s citizens.

Care UK in Bristol Offer Private Operations for those Wanting to Jump NHS Queues

December 5, 2017

This piece of news was reported in the Bristol Post yesterday. Care UK, the private healthcare provider, which runs some services on behalf of the NHS in Emerson’s Green in Bristol, was sending out material to GPs, including price lists of operations up to £9,000. The company was hoping to encourage them to get people to go private for a number of simple operations, so that they could jump NHS waiting lists. The paper noted that there was a long waiting time at Emerson’s Green for operations.

This naturally outraged GPs and organisations dedicated to preserving our embattled NHS, and much of the article was comments from them attacking this latest attempt by private enterprise to run down the Health Service. Those defending the NHS and protesting against Care UK’s actions made the point that this was very much part of the general ‘direction of travel’ that the government has been following in its policy of privatising the NHS.

Mike put up an article a few days ago reporting on the latest Tory wheeze to privatise GP services, using much the same trick. This involves a special line you can use, where, for £40, you can jump the queue to be seen by a GP. Mike stated, very clearly and entirely accurately, that this was against the principles of the NHS, and was about setting up a two-tier health service.

Of course it is. All these private services violate the founding principles of the NHS that healthcare should be universal and free at the point of service. Maggie Thatcher wanted to privatise the NHS completely, but was prevented by a cabinet rebellion. She did, however, have the goal of making 25 per cent of the British population take out private health insurance. Peter Lilley and John Major introduced the Private Finance Initiative, because they wanted to open up the NHS to private investment. Meaning they wanted private enterprise to run hospitals, clinics and so on.

As did Tony Blair and New Labour – the right-wingers in the Labour party, who are now telling you that Jeremy Corbyn is too left-wing and unelectable. And David Cameron and Theresa May have been just as determined to privatise the NHS. Under the terms of Andrew Lansley’s 2012 healthcare act, the secretary of state for health is no longer responsible for making sure that everyone has access to state healthcare. And the Tories have deliberately arranged the reforms to allow healthcare providers to charge for services. Again, this is a violation of the fundamental principles of the NHS.

Enough’s enough. It’s time the Tories were thrown out of government, and parasites and profiteers like Care UK out of the NHS. Jeremy Corbyn has promised to renationalise the NHS. If there was only one reason why Britain needs him and Labour in government, this is it.

The Private Firms Paid Millions to Check Hospital Admissions

January 7, 2017

Last Thursday, the I newspaper carried a story about private companies being paid millions of taxpayers’ money to check doctor’s referrals of patients to hospitals. Yet these centres, run by private healthcare firms, aren’t at all new. They’re mentioned in Alyson M. Pollock’s and David Price’s chapter, ‘From Cradle to Grave’ in NHS – SOS, edited by Jacky Davis & Raymond Tallis, published in 2013. Pollock and Price write

Increasingly, general practice and commissioning functions will be operated and managed by for-profit companies, twenty three of which – including well-established outfits Virgin Care, Care UK and ChilversMcCrae Healthcare – already run 227 general practices. Professional autonomy will be eroded if, for example, referral management centres run by corporate providers are used to ensure referral and prescribing practices conform to corporate budgets and the needs of shareholders. These centres were already rejecting one in eight general practitioner referrals before the full force of the new health law has been felt, and they seem to be operating along the lines of American-style ‘prior authorisation’ arrangements, whereby doctors are required to obtain approval from a higher authority (usually a private health insurance provider) before making a referral for treatment or investigation. Some of the centres, such as UnitedHealth Group UK’s recently established ‘referral facilitation service’ based in Hounslow, are run by subsidiaries of US healthcare multinationals. (pp. 191-2).

Of course, this also shows how fake the Tory claim of giving patients more ‘choice’ in their healthcare actually is. And contrary to another grotty Tory claim, it’s another layer of bureaucracy actually put into the NHS to make it attractive to private contractors.

The whole process of privatisation needs to be reverse. Now. The only political leader determined to do it is Jeremy Corbyn, but you won’t know this from the hysterical denunciations of him for being ‘Trotskyite’ from Blairites and the mainstream press, including the I.

The I: ‘Private Hospitals ‘Put Patients at Risk’

November 30, 2015

I just found this article in today’s ‘I’ newspaper for 30th November 2015, reporting the findings of the Centre for Health and the Public Interest that poor standards at smaller private hospitals are a risk to patients’ health. The article by Paul Gallagher states

‘NHS patients sent for treatment at smaller private hospitals are being put at risk because of unsafe staffing and facilities, according to a report by an anti-privatisation think-tank.

Nurses without specialist training, high levels of agency staff on post-operative wards and hygiene weaknesses were also among the patient safety risk identified by the Centre for Health and Public Interest (CHPI).

Analysis of 15 Care Quality Commission (CQC) investigations into hospitals from each of England’s six main private hospital chains found serious problems even in hospitals rate “good” by the regulator. Care UK’s Barlborough NYHS Treatment Centre in Chesterfield was given an overall rating of “good” and a rating of “good” specifically for surgery. Yet in the previous 12 months there had been four “never events”, defined as “serious, largely preventable, patient safety incidents that should not occur”.

Dr Howard Freeman, of the NHS Partners Network, said: “The overwhelming majority of NHS care delivered by independent sector hospitals is safe”.’

I dare say the treatment at most private hospitals is safe, but that does not mean that it is necessarily particularly high or of the same quality as that supplied by the NHS. In America, there is a very high incidence of iatrogenic disease. In the case of surgery, this is built into the system through the profit motive. Doctors and surgeons get paid if they treat. Therefore, they will offer or suggest treatment, even if its unnecessary. Way back in the 1980s Panorama did an edition on medicine in America, at the time when Maggie was considering its privatisation, and revealed the very high rates of unnecessary operations in the Land of the Free. This adds further evidence to corroborate existing information on the detrimental effects of private healthcare, no matter what Bliar and Cameron have told and are telling everyone.

Independent: State GPs Better than Private Enterprise, Report Shows

April 26, 2015

NHS-privatisation

Friday’s Independent carried news of research by Imperial College London that that the private and voluntary healthcare organisations that have bought into the NHS perform worse than the traditional GP system. New Labour in 2004 opened up the NHS to private healthcare firms like Virgin Healthcare and Care UK, and also social enterprises and voluntary organisations. At the moment, these organisations provide 347 GP surgeries out of the total 8,300 in England. The Indie noted that these firms typically served more deprived, younger and diverse populations than normal, state-run surgeries.

The study, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, found that these private, voluntary and social organisations provided worse service than the state in 15 out of 17 key areas. These included patient satisfaction, diabetes control and keeping patients out of hospital.

Supporters of these private GP services criticised the study’s findings on the grounds that like was not compared with like.

This is, nevertheless, a blow to the supporters of the piecemeal privatisation of the NHS under the Tories and Lib Dems. There are 92 MPs in the coalition parties, who either own, or have senior positions in the private healthcare firms seeking to profit from the NHS, including the minister for chequebook genocide, Iain Duncan Smith. Andrew Lansley and Jeremy Hunt have both spoken out in favour of the privatisation of the NHS. One Tory politico even stated that it wouldn’t exist if the Tories won a second term. When this was reported, Tory Central Office immediately went into emergency spin mode, and claimed he’d been misreported. They said instead that what he meant was that the NHS would be transformed by the removal of all the bureaucracy.

And the Kippers have been very outspoken in their desire to privatise the NHS. The Purple Duce, Nigel Farage, claims he doesn’t want to privatise it, but has said that he wants state funding to be replace by private insurance. Which means privatisation. His deputy, Paul Nuttall, has stated very clearly that he wants it privatised. I can’t remember if it was Nuttall, or one of the other Kippers, who went off and compared the NHS to Nazi Germany. This says much about the extreme Right-wing hysteria running through UKIP. They really believe that any kind of state intervention = Nazism. Because the Nazis put ‘Socialist’ in their name.

As for the Tories’ claim that their people don’t advocate the privatisation of the NHS: they’re lying. The bureaucracy has actually increased in the NHS due to the introduction of privatisation, PFI and the internal market, the basis of which was introduced by Peter ‘I’ve got a little list’ Lilley’ in the 1990s under John Major.

As for not keeping people out of hospital, from the point of view of private medicine this is just good, profit-making sense. Private hospitals make their money from treating people. Therefore, they have a vested interest in making sure as many people are sent to them as possible. It’s why the private healthcare system of the US is riddled with cases where people have undergone unnecessary surgery.

Earlier today I reblogged a video that has been sent out by 38 Degrees, asking people to use their vote to defend and protect the NHS. I notice that a number of my readers here have already reblogged in their turn. Thanks! We’ve got to do all we can to stop the privatisation of the NHS.

And that means definitely not voting for the Tories, the Lib Dems and very definitely not the Kippers.

Private Eye 2011 on Circle Health

January 20, 2015

Last week the Circle Health group finally pulled out of its contract to run NHS hospitals. The standards of care were appalling, and the company had not been able to make the massive profit it expected. Four years ago in their 24th June – 7th July 2011 issue, Private Eye printed this story about Circle Health, and what their acquisition of government contracts augured for the rest of the NHS under the Tories’ privatisation plans.

NHS Competition
Circle Health Merry-Go-Round

As the debate rages over greater private sector involvement in a reformed NHS, the aggressive behaviour of one private health firm, Circle Health, is a sign of things to come.

Using the ‘”Any Willing Provider” rules that are designed to increase competition in the NHS (and which will continue even after the Conservatives’ current health reforms are watered down), Circle is trying to force two NHS trusts to give it more surgical work and on better terms regarding price and timing.

Circle Health is 49 percent-owned by employees and often described as a “social enterprise”. But 51 percent of it is owned by private investors, including around 40 percent by hedge funds Odey Asset Management and Landsdowne Holdings. Since 2003 Crispin Odey and Lansdowne’s Paul Ruddock and David Craigen have between them donated more than £560,000 to the Conservative party.

In January this year, Circle Health applied to the NHS Cooperation and Competition Panel to demand that NHS Wiltshire and NHS Bath and North East Somerset give it more work and on better terms. The panel, a New Labour quango, is meant to determine when the NHS should give operations to private firms, in keeping with the edict that “any willing provider” should be considered for NHS work in competition with NHS hospitals.

Under the government’s current “climbdown” on NHS reform, the panel will be moved into the NHS regulator Monitor and become the main enforcer pushing NHS privatisation. This is supposedly less aggressive than health secretary Andrew Lansley’s original plan because the panel will now consider “cooperation” as well as “competition”, whereas before Monitor only had a duty to promote “competition”.

Circle Health is pressing its demands on Wiltshire and Bath, who jointly commission NHS services, because it built its flagship hospital in Bath and needs the NHS work to pay for its fancy. Norman Foster-designed building with “chauffeur drive service”, “five-star hospitality” and a bistro serving “locally-sourced, mainly organis food” prepared by a “Michelin-starred chef”.

Local NHS suits must be hoping the panel, headed by former private healthcare investor Lord Carter, looks fairly at the case. Worryingly, he and health secretary Andrew Lansley appear to be fans of Circle Health: in January they were guest speakers at its annual conference at the firm’s Bath hospital.

According to papers lodged with the panel, Circle Health is angry that out of a £160m local budget, its own potential revenues “have been capped at 6m”. It claims the health authorities won’t offer it more contracts because they want to keep work in-house to “protect NHS providers from further potential capacity reduction”. Circle also claims that the health authorities are favouring the NHS by only offering private sector providers four types of surgery. Circle wants more, including the chance to carry out liver surgery.

The panel is due to give its verdict at the end of the month.

In the same piece, the Eye also had this to say about Ruth Carnall, the NHS head, who was also on the payroll of the private health care industry. Unsurprisingly, she also favoured cuts and privatisation, for which she was suitable awarded.

Congratulations to Ruth Carnall, who grabbed a CBE for services to the NHS.

Carnall flitted between running the “Change Programme” at the Department of Health … and jobs with private health firm Care UK and consultants KPMG. She is currently head of NHS London, where her hospital cuts plan for the capital was so aggressive even slash-happy health secretary Andrew Lansley had to call for a pause.

At both the national and local level then, the privatisation of the NHS has been carried out by politicians and NHS heads with links to private health care companies and the firms involved in the privatisation – a clear conflict of interest. As for Circle Health, the events of the past week shows how right NHS BANES and Wiltshire were not to want to give NHS contracts to this outfit of incompetent profiteers.