Posts Tagged ‘Circle Health’

Five Reasons Why the Tories Should Never See Power Ever Again

May 2, 2017

This excellent video was posted on YouTube by Scot TV. I’ve no doubt he’s a Scots Nationalist, but it also holds true for the rest of Britain. He states in his explanation that an extra zero could be added to the five, but for the sake of brevity he’s leaving it to the lower number. Those five reasons are:

1. Tory election overspending. He notes that the charges have now been dropped, but about 20 or so Tory MPs are still being investigated.

2. The NHS. This is being starved of cash, so that patients are suffering appalling delays and a consequent disastrous decline in the quality of care. The NHS is at breaking point. Meanwhile, the Tories are privatising it by the back door. This part of the video shows headlines from various papers about the government selling off and handing over NHS hospitals and services to the usual private healthcare companies and outsourcing giants, like Circle Health and SERCO. There is also another funny segment from Jeremy Pie in which the comic reporter rants about how it isn’t outsourcing, it is straightforward privatisation. Pie makes the point that if the NHS needs money, then why can’t it simply be given it.

3. Benefit Cuts. This part of the video documents the terrible effect benefit cuts and sanctions are having on disabled people. It gives the facts and figures on the effects it has had on them. One of the clips is of an MP asking questions in the House about why disabled people are required to go through the Work Capability Tests, when so many – he gives the appropriate figures – die before, during and after the tests. He also shows the complete contempt the Tories have for those forced into misery by the tests, when Ian Duncan Smith didn’t have time to respond to questions about them, but very much did have the time to have his portrait painted. The video also correctly says that the attacks on the poor and disabled were so severe, that the UN was forced to intervene. He also give the sneering response from the Tories, where one snotty MP remarked that the UN rapporteur should mind her own business, just like he didn’t know about poverty in Costa Rica or wherever she came from. The video praises Dennis Skinner’s pointed remarks in parliament, where he called Cameron ‘Dodgy Dave’, and took him to task for having his mortgage paid for by the state while denying state help to others. The video calls this ‘a welcome poke in the eye’ for the Tories.

4. The Panama Papers. This was the scandal that erupted a few years ago when documents came to light showing how the Conservatives had moved their business dealings into offshore accounts in the Caribbean in order to avoid paying tax in the UK. As usual, this was mixed with contempt and sneering towards ordinary people. The clip shows the Tory MP, Alan Duncan, standing up on his hind legs in the House to attack their critics. They are, he claimed, moved solely by hatred of anybody who’s wealthy, and if people like them had their way, the House of Commons would be stuffed full of incompetents and mediocrities, who had never run a business.

5. Tory behaviour during the referendums. Here the video includes clips of the Tories, including David Cameron, once again scaremongering, with ‘Project Fear’ directed at the Scottish Nationalists in the referendum over Scottish independence, and then more of the same in the referendum over whether to leave the EU, with the Tories trying to scare people into voting Remain.

While I am a Unionist, who voted to Remain in Europe, I wholeheartedly agree with the rest of Scot TV’s reasons for kicking out the Tories and keeping them out. They did break the rules on electoral spending. They are deliberately running down the NHS so that they can privatise it by the back door. They are killing the disabled and the poor through benefit cuts. They do add insult to injury by sneering at those concerned with the poverty and suffering they inflict, at ordinary working people. And Ian Duncan Smith was vain. He was also cruel and cowardly, surrounding himself with armed guards when required to give his testimony to the parliamentary committee investigating his conduct. That was when he finally deigned to appear before them. And as Mike showed on his blog, Smith did his level best to stop the mortality figures ever getting out.

They are corrupt, with one set of standards for themselves and another for the poor. They see themselves as a favoured elite, who should be allowed to dodge as much tax as they can, while shifting the tax burden onto those who can least afford it. Half of all millionaires have actually done nothing to deserve their money, as it’s inherited. But they still see a system, that so massively rewards them while penalising the poor simply for being poor as just, and themselves as uniquely deserving their position and power. Hence Alan Duncan’s sneer about their critics being just jealous of the rich, and wanting to have parliament stuffed with mediocrities. It was the sneer of the Tory right in the 19th and 20th centuries, when they wanted to stop the working class getting the vote at all costs.

And even though I wish Scotland to stay in the Union, Scot TV is correct about the Tories running a dirty campaign of fearmongering during the independence referendum. They also ran a Project Fear campaign to get us out of Europe. The impetus for Brexit comes from the Tory right and UKIP, whose leadership are right-wing Tories. They want us to leave because they hate, loathe and detest the minimal rights granted to workers under the Social Charter.

The Tories are vile. They should be voted out and kept out. I urge people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party to preserve what remains of the British welfare state, and renationalise the NHS.

Advertisements

My YouTube Video Urging People to Vote Labour to Defend the NHS

April 30, 2017

I’ve had my own YouTube channel for a few years now. I haven’t posted anything on there for quite a while, and most of the stuff I have posted up there is about archaeology, early musical instruments and few home-made space videos. However, today I put up a video urging people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour to prevent the Tories privatising the NHS.

I state that it began when Margaret Thatcher came to power as part of her campaign to dismantle the welfare state, but that Thatcher was stopped from doing so by her a cabinet revolt and her Personal Secretary, Patrick Jenkin. The cabinet realised that if she did privatise the NHS, it would immediately result in the Tories losing an election. Also, Jenkin went to America and realised just how bad the American system of private healthcare was. So Maggie settled for trying to expand private healthcare in Britain, aiming to have 25 per cent of the British people take out private health insurance.

A few years later in the 1980s there came a dispute between her and the dentists, which resulted in very many of them leaving the NHS. The result of that is that, while there still are NHS dentists, you need to look for them. And private dental care is not cheap. So people are going without proper dentistry.

After that, Peter Lilley in John Major’s administration introduced the Private Finance Initiative, under which private corporations build and manage hospitals for the NHS. It’s essentially a scheme to keep the costs of construction and management off the books. In practice it’s massively more expensive than simply having them build by the state. Those hospitals, clinics and other medical services built through it also tend to be smaller than through ordinary hospitals built by the state. See the chapter in George Monbiot’s Captive State. This was all done to open up the NHS to private investment.

This programme was expanded by Tony Blair, as he, like the Tories, was approached by private healthcare firms such as Unum, Virgin Health, Circle Health and BUPA to privatise more NHS services. His health secretary, Alan Milburn, wished to reduce the NHS to a kitemark for services provided for the state by private healthcare companies. He split the NHS up and handed its management to CCGs – Community Care Groups. This was supposed to be giving doctors greater freedom and more choice. However, it doesn’t do this as most doctors simply don’t have enough time to spend on administration. The CCGs were given the power to raise money privately, and commission services from private healthcare providers. Again, hospitals and the health centres or polyclinics Blair also built were also to be managed by private companies.

This programme did not stop when David Cameron’s new Conservative government was voted into power in 2010. Cameron had claimed that he going to stop further cuts in the NHS. He didn’t. He expanded the privatisation programme even further. The 2012 healthcare act formulated by his health minister, Andrew Lansley, is a convoluted document, but it removes the Health Secretary from having to provide medical services. Furthermore, the Tories have also passed legislation allowing the NHS to charge for services, even ambulance care. And this is still going ahead under Theresa May.

There is a real danger that the NHS will be abolished, and the country will return to the way it was before the Labour government introduced it. Private healthcare is not more economical and efficient than state healthcare. Private insurance companies and hospitals spend much more on management, including advertising, legal teams and simply trying to raise money from investors, to make sure their shareholders see a profit. There are about 50 million Americans without health insurance. 33,000 Americans die every year from lack of medical care. And it was like that before the NHS, when the charity hospitals, where people were sent if they didn’t have private health insurance, or weren’t covered by the state health insurance scheme, spent much of their time trying to raise money. And millions of people were denied healthcare, because they couldn’t afford it.

Jeremy Corbyn has said that he will renationalise the NHS. Dr. David Owen has also sponsored a bill to renationalise the NHS. They need our support. And so, if you want to keep the NHS, you should vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

For further information, see the following books:
NHS-SOS, edited by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis (London: OneWorld 2015)
Dr. Youseff El-Gingihy, How to Privatise the NHS in 10 Easy Steps (Zed Books)
and my own, Privatisation: Killing the NHS, published by Lulu.

More Tory Madness at the Polls: Theresa May Most Popular Leader Since Churchill

April 29, 2017

What are they on?
Or to put it another way, how stupid and gullible do they think the British public is?

I’ve blogged today about the unreliability of the polls. These supposedly show that May has a 16 per cent lead over Jeremy Corbyn, who is, as the Tories and the Blairites are constantly screaming, supposedly unelectable. But those same polls, as Mike has said on his blog, show that the Tory lead apparently fell by eight points in just one week. And the I newspaper also claimed in an article this past week, that while May was in an overall lead, Labour was far more popular with young people.

All this is I can believe. I also mentioned in my last article about the polls a piece by Guy Debord’s Cat, where he argued that polling isn’t designed to provide an objective description of how popular our leaders are, or who really thinks what about a particular issue. They’re carefully manufactured by the polling companies – largely Tory – and the media – also largely Tory – to show the results they want, in the hope of influencing the electorate, thus showing the power of the press as opinion formers.

Hence the constant refrain from the Blairites, the Tories and their lickspittles in the press that Jeremy Corbyn is supposedly massively unpopular with suitable polling figures trotted out to show this. Supposedly. In fact, the media and Corbyn’s opponents within and outside the Labour party are absolutely terrified of him being popular. If – terrible thought! – Corbyn actually wins the election, it will put an end to nearly forty years of Thatcherism in one form or another. The rich might have to start paying their fair share of the public purse again, while the poor might start seeing improvements to wages, services and proper welfare provision. One that provides them with the maintenance they need and treats them with the respect and dignity they deserve. And it will stop the privatisation of the NHS, which UNUM, Branson, BUPA, Circle Health and the other private healthcare providers angling to get some of the market occupied by the NHS are so keen on.

Now I’m prepared to accept that May probably is in the lead over Corbyn in terms of personal popularity, because of the relentless campaign by the mainstream media to promote her. That lead, however, needs to be heavily qualified. Richard Seymour in his book Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics has pointed out that the ‘Project Fear’ the mainstream media has launched against Corbyn in the hope of terrifying people into not voting for him has backfired. People are reacting against the media’s demonization and constant lying. And so far from making Corbyn unpopular, he’s become more so with people expressing their support for the Labour leader, and getting news and information about him, not from the papers, TV or radio, but from social media on the Net. This is being done spontaneously by ordinary people not connected to the Labour party.

But this is one claim about May’s popularity I find extremely difficult to believe.

According to Have I Got News For You, who announced this straight-faced, Theresa May is the most popular British Prime Minister since the War.

As the little lad used to say on Different Strokes way back in the ’80s: ‘What you talkin’ about, Willis?’

So we’re being asked to believe that Theresa May, who doesn’t want to appear in the leader debates, says she doesn’t want to talk to the press, and makes very few public appearances, and when she does, they’re very carefully stage-managed, is more popular than, well, great British Prime Ministers like Clement Atlee, Harold MacMillan, Harold Wilson or even Tony Blair and Maggie Thatcher? Thatcher was a disaster for this country, but she was massively popular. She was also was massively unpopular, to the point where she was supposedly the most popular and unpopular British Prime Minister since the War. She’s still the great, molten idol of the Tories and Blairite Labour. The first thing Blair did was have her round No. 10 for tea after he won the election.

Thatcher was so strident and strong that she got the nickname ‘the Iron Lady’. May, by contrast, is very definitely weak and wobbly, as Mike’s pointed out, despite all the cries by the Tories and the press that she’s ‘strong’ and ‘stable’.

So the question has to be asked: do the Tories and the press really think that we’re all that stupid to believe this rubbish?

Or, alternatively, have they been drinking too much, or partaking of Jazz cigarettes or other illicit recreational substances? I mentioned in an earlier post that the mugwumps about which May was asked, apart from being an Algonkin word meaning ‘great chief’, were also the strange lizard creatures in David Cronenberg’s film version of The Naked Lunch. Very roughly based on the novel by William S. Burroughs, this is about a pest control man, who suffers massive, very weird hallucinations after he becomes addicted to the poisons he uses to exterminate the bugs and other vermin. The mugwumps in the movie are just some of the bizarre creatures he sees.

Boris Johnson this week called Corbyn a ‘mutton-headed mugwump’, and now the Tory press reckons she’s the most popular Prime Minister since Churchill. Whether or not illegal substances are involved, someone’s clearly tripping.


Theresa May and Mugwump celebrate her lead in the polls. Don’t have nightmares.

Vox Political on Gloria de Piero’s Article in the Scum

July 4, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has also put up an article critiquing an article today in the Scum by yet another Blairite, Gloria de Piero. De Piero has decided to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, to encourage good supporters of Tony Blair to join the Labour party and vote to get Jeremy Corbyn out of office as the party’s leader.

Mike quotes her as saying

By signing up you can help choose a leader who recognises that the Labour Party was founded to be a Party of Government and implement policies to improve the lives of working people. A party of protest doesn’t help a single person.

The country needs a Labour Party that can deal with the reality of our exit from the EU and ensure Labour values are at the heart of talks about our departure.

He points out that despite her talk of ‘Labour values’, she doesn’t define what they are. See his post: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/07/03/labour-mutineer-reduced-to-appearance-in-the-sun-in-bid-to-flood-labour-with-right-wing-entryists/

And I honestly don’t think she reasonably can. Labour used to stand for state intervention, the public ownership of the means of production, and the welfare state. Until Tony Blair turned up, threw out Clause 4, which commits the party to public ownership, and threatened to cut ties with the trade unions and then set about privatising anything which wasn’t nailed down.

Which includes the NHS.

He furthermore introduced the odious Work Capability Test, with the support of American health insurance fraudsters, Unum. As a result, millions of people have been the victims of benefit sanctions. About 590 people have died in misery and starvation because of this, and 290,000 people with mental health problems, have seen the conditions get worse. In some case, very seriously worse.

All this, of course, was to demonstrate to the ruling class that Labour could manage the economy as effectively as the Tories, and appeal to those swing voters in marginal constituencies, who could vote for the Tories. In doing so, Blair, Broon and the others showed their complete contempt for the party they led, and the working people of this great nation.

And instrumental in getting support for Bliar was the Dirty Digger and his media empire. Former cabinet ministers have stated that Murdoch was always an invisible presence at cabinet meetings, with the Dear Leader fretting over how a policy would go with Murdoch.

Mike in his article above responds to a critic, who claims he was making a ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy when attacking the Scum’s anti-Labour record. Mike reminds us all that at certain periods, a majority of the paper’s readers were probably Labour supporters, determined to laugh and get angry at it. That certainly did happen. A friend once told me he knew somebody, who did read the Scum in order to get angry. No, I don’t understand the psychology either. But clearly it existed.

Unfortunately, there were also people who really did think it was a Socialist paper. It had, after all, originally been the Daily Herald, a Labour newspaper, and for a brief period after the Chunder from Down Under had bought it, it continued with a pro-Labour bias, before it became the bug-eyed, rabidly Thatcherite rag it is today.

After supporting the Tories, Murdoch in the mid-90s switched from them, and the-then Tory prime minister, John Major, and began plugging Blair. About that time there were interviews with Australia’s Goebbels, in which he told various TV journos that he had started out as a Socialist, and made it sound like he had gone back to his roots.

He hadn’t. And had no intention to. And I have to say, I’m doubtful he was ever a Socialist in the first place. Biographies of Murdoch have made it plain that the man responsible for bring down cultural standards across at least four continents has always remained consistent in his political beliefs. They are pro-privatisation, anti-trade union, and include the privatisation of the NHS.

These are apparently the same ‘Labour values’ Gloria de Piero stands for. She obviously approves of seeing further people thrown off benefit, and denied state medical aid for the corporate profit of BUPA, Circle Health, Virgin Healthcare and co.

As for her statement Labour needs to be a party of government not a party of protest, it’s a questionable statement and the unspoken assumptions underneath it are toxic. She assumes that Labour can only become a party of government by accepting the neoliberal, Thatcherite economic system. But this is nonsense. Labour lost 4 million votes when it was in power, because to too many people it had become indistinguishable from the Tories.

And even when Labour was out of office, as it was in the 1980s and much of the 1990s, it still did sterling work stopping the Tories from going too far. They have said that they were afraid to go too far with privatising the NHS, as they knew this would be seized upon and they’d lose the election to Labour. But once New Labour was in power under Bliar, they noted angrily that Labour went further with the privatisation of the NHS than they dared. And hence the Tories have gone even further with Andrew Lansley’s disgusting Health and Social Care Bill.

But Murdoch’s smiling, ’cause he counts on winning, no matter who’s in power. And de Piero’s happy, as she thinks she’ll keep her seat in parliament. Who knows? She might even get a place in cabinet and a nice, juicy directorship when she retires.

While others starve and wonder how they’re going to pay their medical bills.

Pro-Corbin Article in Today’s Counterpunch

June 30, 2016

The American left-wing magazine, Counterpunch, has an important article by Thomas Barker urging people outside the Labour party to support Corbyn in his desperate battle with the Blairites. Barker describes how 172 MPs have come out against him, including Ed Miliband, all claiming that he is ‘unelectable’, despite having the biggest mandate of the party leaders. He states very clearly that their opposition to Corbyn is based on his desire to bring back real Socialism into the party, and make the Left a renewed force in British politics, through supporting the nationalisation of the railways, free education, a better minimum wage and so on. He states that Corbyn also has limited support from the constituency parties, and so urges those outside the party to show their support.

He begins

Since last Thursday’s EU referendum, some 172 right wing Labour MPs have put their name to a vote of no confidence in their leader Jeremy Corbyn. They claim that Corbyn is ‘unelectable’, despite winning the biggest mandate of any party leader in British history.

Even leaders proven to be ‘unelectable’, such as Ed Miliband, are now calling for Corbyn to resign.

In reality, these Blairite MPs are opposed to Corbyn’s program of a £10 an hour living wage, mass council house building, free education, and nationalisation of the railways.

It is hardly surprising that right wing MPs have come out against Corbyn, but what is most galling is the attempt by small groups of Labour members, including MPs and councillors, to enclose the debate within the confines of the party.

This is a huge mistake.

The implications of the ongoing leadership struggle are much bigger than one party. This is a struggle to reconstitute the left as a mass force. The idea that you need to be part of Labour to have an opinion on this is exactly the kind of exclusionary nonsense that needs to be avoided if Corbyn is to succeed.

The article’s at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/06/30/saving-labour-from-blairism-the-dangers-of-confining-the-debate-to-existing-members/

Go and read it.

People are indeed showing their support for Corbyn. Mike has linked to an internet petition asking him not to resign, and on Tuesday evening there was demonstration in his support on College Green in Bristol

And the Blairites, as a political faction, are vile. Tony Blair was a neoliberal Tory and a Thatcherite. One of the first things he did when he got into No. 10 was invited her round. She described New Labour as her greatest achievement. Well, she did make it very clear she wanted to destroy Socialism.

Blair continued the disastrous PFI, which has seen this country saddled with massive, off-the-accounts debt for shoddy workmanship in public utilities. He also continued and expanded Thatcher’s privatisation of the NHS. This was a conscious policy. He wanted to introduce an insurance-driven system like America, but didn’t want to lose an election by telling the voters. See Jacky Davis’ and Raymond Tallis’ NHS-SOS. It was Blair that also called in ATOS to conduct the fitness-for-work tests that have so far seen 500 or see people die of starvation and misery, and a further 290,000 suffer varying degrees of harm to their mental health. And it was Blair, who began the transform of our publicly funded schools into privately run academies.

Quite apart from Bliar, Mandelson and Broon introducing tuition fees.

This has all reduced the British people to poverty. It’s provided the basis for Cameron’s policies, which have continued them. As a result of 30 odd years of Thatcherism, our children will have worse schooling, the working and lower middle class will be saddled with immense debt if they go to Uni, and we are being charged for the health service, to the profit of private medical firms like BUPA, Circle Health, and Beardie Branson’s Virgin Care.

Enough’s enough. It’s time the Blairites were thrown out of the party, and treated with the contempt they deserve by the working people of this country, whom they’ve spurned. It was after all one of the Blairite MPs, who stated that Labour would be even harder on jobseekers than the Tories. All to curry favour with the corporate, tax-dodging fat cats and media barons like Murdoch, Dacre, Desmond and the weirdo Barclay Twins.

And so I say: I support Corbyn.

From 1997: Failure of Privatised Welsh Hospital

January 31, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has been covering and refuting the Tories’ accusations of poor performance in the NHS in Wales. This is part of the Tories’ campaign to try and discredit the NHS throughout Britain, and replace it with an insurance-funded system on the American model. It is also deeply mendacious, especially considering the failings of various private health initiatives, which have been introduced into the NHS by them and New Labour. Like this story from Private Eye’s edition of the 4th April 1997. This reported the failings of private enterprise community hospital in Barry.

Redwood’s Net on the Tiles

The new unreadable book by John Redwood, sensitively published during the election campaign to cause maximum embarrassment to John Major, devotes many pages to the glories of privatisation, especially in the health service.

Anyone who wants to test these theories should pay a visit to the brand new community hospital in Barry, South Wales.

The hospital was built by Sir Robert McAlpine, the family firm of the former treaturer of the Tory party, Alistair McAlpine. But there was an irritating element of public enterprise in the project in the shape of the Welsh Health and Community Services Association (WHCSA), which acted as project manager.

When Redwood became secretary of state for Wales in 1993, he ordered a clean-up of any nasty deposits of public enterprise still lying around. Thus the project management at Barry hospital was privatised. The better – and more expensive architects and surveyors – were replaced by “more affordable” personnel, and 1996 the whole project management of Barry Hospital was handed to Beard Dove Ltd, a subsidiary of Capita Plc.

All sorts of things have gone wrong at the hospital. Tiles from the roof have been falling off in the high winds. To contain the tiles, the whole roof has been covered in green plastic netting, earning the hospital the nickname, the Ena Sharples Memorial Home. The boilers were so disastrous that throughout last winter patients were shoved from ward to ward to keep warm.

Last month the Landough Hospital Trust (chairman: former chairman of the Welsh Tory party Sir Donald Walters) discovered to its horror that, in its own words, “minimal progress has been made” in putting any of this right. The remedy was obvious. Beard Dove was “relinquished” from it contract and project management went back to, er, WHCSA … whose operation at Barry Hospital John Redwood at Barry Hospital John Redwood had insisted on privatising.

WHCSA is now negotiating with McAlpines to see how much more public money has to be spent to save the hospital from the private enterprise disasters which have engulfed it.

John Redwood was one of the group of extremely right-wing Tory MPs, who tried to unseat John Major in the 1990s. He used to refer to them as ‘the bastards’, or, according to Private Eye, ‘Ward 8 from Broadmoor’.

A few weeks ago we saw a similar process occur, as Circle Health walked away from their contract to administer NHS hospitals amidst a scandal of appallingly low performance and disgusting neglectful treatment of patients. Circle Health complained that they simply couldn’t make a profit from the management of the hospitals.

The failure of the privatised project management of the Barry community hospital and its effective renationalisation was a prefiguration of the failures to come.

And we can expect more such failures as the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS continues. Though if the Tories are successful, there won’t be any remaining NHS to return them to.

Just a future of public expense, private profiteering, poor performance and ultimately zero, or near zero patient care unless you can pay.

From 2011: Private Eye on NHS Privatisation

January 22, 2015

In their issue for 16th -29th September 2011, Private Eye published a block of articles on the government’s privatisation of the NHS. These discussed Circle Health’s attempts to take over the management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital Huntingdon; the proposed putting out to private contract of Suffolk’s 27 community health services, the role of Dr Stephen Dunne in the privatisation process, and negotiations between the NHS and the Helios German private health care group. The articles ran:

NHS PLC
East Extract

Three months after Circle Health, the self-proclaimed “John-Lewis-style health partnership”, was supposed to take over the management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon, the Treasury has still not given its stamp of approval.

Despite NHS East of England’s desperation to privatise the 330-bed hospital, government beancounters seem unimpressed by Circle’s bosses (£35m last year) and debts (a massive £82m, against a notional £95m share value of the company). And mandarins may not be happy to sanction a business plan that in the current climate looks increasingly potty. Unless Circle begins to run the 330-bed Cambridgeshire hospital at a surplus, it will receive no payment under the franchise agreement. Yet Circle’s plan hinges on “growing the business” and treating more patients – at a time when local health commissioners are desperate to reduce the use of hospital beds and cut the amount paid for each part of any treatment.

Also, time is running out. While Circle’s leading figure, Ali Parsa, is keen to promote the fact that doctors, nurse and clinicians have a stake in the company, most of the money and decision-making power rests in the 50.1 percent share owned by Circle Holdings. And with the company admitting to problems from angry creditors and uncertainty about the finances even of its showpiece 28-bed boutique hospital in Bath, the entire project would already have sunk without the injection of private equity capital from some of the most powerful and rapacious hedge funds on the planet. Between them they have invested around £100m in Circle but seen no return. How much longer will they stick around as Circle struggles to generate any return?

Also on NHS East of England’s “for sale” list are four “lots” comprising all 27 of Suffolk’s community health services.

Not surprisingly, five private companies have made the shortlist of nine bidders for one or all of the £43m, three-year contracts to provide services from paediatrics, nursing and therapy to adult community hospitals, nurses, physiotherapists and intervention teams.

Assura Medical, bought up last year by Richard Branson’s Virgin group, is interested in bidding for just one “lot”, while services giant Serco hopes to bag all four. Privatised social care company Essex Cares Limited and two equipment providers, Nottingham Rehab Supplies and Medequip Assistive Technology, are in the running for single lots. None of these companies has any base in Suffolk, and none has provided NHS community services before – although Essex Cares does provide social care for the county council.

Although many health authorities have put their community services out to tender since they were required to have separate “commissioning” and “providing”, hardly any private sector companies have secured contracts. Of the four NHS trusts in the running, only one, the West Suffolk Hospital Trust, is local.

But as it’s the East of England, the smart money suggests bosses will lean on the NHS providers to pull out. After all, at Hinchingbrooke the withdrawal of bids from neighbouring foundation trusts left the field clear for Circle, whose experience in running a huge general hospital was limited to a costly 28-bed showpiece.

Leading the privatisation mission in NHS East of England is director of strategy Dr Stephen Dunn, whose outstanding achievements for the private sector were recognised in this year’s Healthinvestor Awards, in a glitzy presentation at London’s Grosvenor House hotel.

Dunn, whose £125,000-plus salary is paid by the NHS, won the award for “Outstanding Contribution by an individual” for his tireless efforts to push through the privatisation of management at Hinchingbrooke Hospital. And also won the magazine’s “Deal of the Year” award for setting up the ground-breaking franchise, which the judges said “has huge implications for both the public and private sectors”.

Given that the “Deal of the Year” has not yet got Treasury approval, some of his NHS management colleagues were less complimentary. But now that the private sector values his services so highly, no doubt there will always be a place for him in the new NHS plc.

Helios to Pay

Discussions between the NHS and German health group Helios on “how international hospital provider groups may help to tackle the performance improvement of English hospitals” present and alarming prospect.

Helios is part of the Fresenius Group, which was fined £82m in the US in May for having “recklessly disregarded federal law when billing the [US taxpayer-funded] Medicare program for home dialysis supplies and equipment”. Although the over-billing itself occurred just before Fresenius bought the companies involved, Fresenius itself was accused in relation to this case.

Nor was it the German group’s first brush with American law enforcers. Ten years before, Fresenius settled the largest ever healthcare fraud case with civil and criminal penalties approaching $500m after making fraudulent claims from Medicare and paying kickbacks to get work referred its way. Then, in 2005, another arm of Fresenius admitted its role in a pharmaceuticals cartel in South Africa, designed to “manipulate prices for pharmaceutical and hospital products”.

There’s nothing to suggest Fresenius’ record is much worse than those of other private health companies with hungry investors to satisfy, but what hope does it offer for its role in “performance improvement”?

Together, these articles present a dire picture of the privatisation of the NHS. Circle Health only last week walked away from its contract to manage hospitals. Those in its care had appallingly low standards of care, and the company itself complained that it could not make a profit. This article shows that Treasury officials were aware from the start that the company would have problems managing a large, proper hospital, rather than its 28-bed showpiece.

The article about the privatisation of NHS services in Suffolk also shows that private firms simply aren’t as competitive as the NHS. The privatisation is ideologically led, and pushed through by ministers. The privatisation is also being pushed by managers like Stephen Dunn, who no doubt fancy themselves as highly paid companies executives.

As for Helios, they join Unum insurance as a private company convicted of massive fraud in America.

Overall, these articles present a picture that NHS privatisation is being forced through by greedy, incompetent companies, offering extremely poor service and ripping off the taxpayer in the process. Precisely the kind of companies Cameron and Osborne want running the NHS as they privatise it.

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.

From 2013: Private Eye on Complex Corporate Structure and Dodgy Accounting of Private Health Contractor

April 15, 2014

This is from the Eye’s edition for 22nd March – 4th April 2013.

NHS PLC

Broken Circle

Worrying symptoms of Enron-it is have broken out at groovy health company Circle Health which, in partnership with its staff, runs NHS facilities and a group of private hospitals.

Circle’s parent company, Circle Holdings plc, is owned largely by hedge funds, including Crispin Odey’s Odey Asset Management and Sir Paul Ruddock’s Lansdowne Partners, plu8s the offshore trusts of founder and ex-Goldman Sachs banker Ali Parsa. As 51 percent controller of the Circle Health group that now runs Hinchingbrooke NHS hospital trust in Cambridgeshire, as well as the Nottingham NHS treatment centre, it might be hoped that the company’s financial position is above board and fully understood.

Alas, corporate transparency is in even shorter supply than profits at the struggling firm, especially when it comes to financing what it describes as its “flagship” private hospital in Bath (which earns two-thirds of its income from the NHS). The hospital is owned not be Circle Health but by a Jersey company called Health Properties (Bath) Ltd, which leases the building back to Circle in the UK. Given its offshore status, the finances of this company are secret; but clues in Circle Holdings’ accounts suggest it has debts of around £40m (on some of which it has already defaulted), funding a hospital worth about £35m.

As the Bath hospital is very much part of Circle’s business, these amounts would ordinarily be “consolidated” in Circle Holdings’ balance sheet – increasing its overall debt figure. But this is where the “off balance sheet” trick comes in. Health Properties (Bath) Ltd is owned not just by the Circle group, which has 1,200 B shares in the company, but by two other companies as well; one called Health Estates Ltd, with 1,800 B shares, plus the European arm of Lehman Brothers (in, ahem, administration) with 100 A shares. This structure, says Circle, means it owns just 38.7 percent of the property company and can keep it off its books.

Closer scrutiny, however, shows that Health Estates Ltd (also a Jersey company) is managed by yet another company, Health Estates Managers Ltd (ditto), that is wholly owned by Circle. And when it comes to voiting on matters concerning Health Properties (Bath) Ltd, it has agreed to do whatever Circle tells it to. Since the A and B shareholders appoint equal numbers of the property company’s directors, this means control is nominally shared by Lehmans (in administration) and Circle. But in practice the Lehman administrators, Pricewaterhouse Coopoers, are unlikely to demur from Circle’s wishes, not least given their clear conflict of interest as Circle Holdings’ auditor with duties such as signing off the strange arrangement every year.

An accountancy rule known as SIC-12 says that if a company in substance controls what is known as a “special purpose entity”, such as Health Properties (Bath) Ltd, its results and its assets and liabilities should be consolidated in the holding company’s figures. Other indications that this ought to happen include where the special entity’s assets – such as a big hospital – is used for the wider group’s benefit, as it is here.

Circle Holdings’ latest figures show debts of around £55m. Adding in the Bath debt would take that towards the £100m, which would not look good as the loss-making company – from which Parsa recently departed – repeatedly goes cap in hand to the City to stay afloat while running vital health services. Nor would it be too reassuring for the taxpayer given its reliance on the firm.

MPs on the public accounts committee have already expressed concern over the Hinchingrooke deal, pointing out that “the NHS can never transfer the operational risk of running a hospital, leaving the taxpayer exposed should the franchise fail”. Handing hospitals to companies with offshore, off balance sheet property schemes might not have been the healthiest option.

This is of particular interest to people in the Bristol/ Bath area, as Circle Health’s hospital in Bath was opened last year with some fanfare. It was featured on the local news, if I remember correctly, and adverts for it have appeared in Bristol and, doubtless, some other areas. Yet the company is clearly saddled with massive debt, which it has attempted to hide through a complex off-shore corporate structure intended to keep it off the balance sheet. And it’s partly owned by Lehman Brothers, who were partly responsible for the financial crash in 2010. Given this history and background, it’s questionable that such a company should ever have been given control of NHS hospitals, regardless of the wider issues of the supposed superiority of private enterprise.

Private Eye on Private Equity’s Firms Mismanagement of Hinchingbrooke NHS Hospital

July 24, 2013

I found this article in the 22nd December-10 January 2013 issue of Private Eye. It reports and comments on the appalling mismanagement of Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridge. This was the first NHS hospital to be given to the private healthcare company, Circle Health, to run.

Circle Squared

The abrupt decision of the once irrepressible Ali Parsa to step down as chief executive of Circle Health has ben followed by an abrupt change of management style at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, the first NHS hospital to be run by a private company.

A film crew from Channel 4’s Cutting Edge programme who turned up recently at the Cambridgeshire hospital, expecting to continue work on a documentary Parsa had initiated, were abruptly escorted from the premises and told not to return.

Could the change in management style have anything to do with the fact that things had already been going seriously adrift at Hinchingbrooke, which Circle Holdings plc took over in February in a ten-year, £1bn deal?

Despite Parsa’a boasts about making huge savinigs, the hospital is already running a deficit of more than £4m, with no prospect of delivering profit for Circle’s private equity and hedge fund shareholders. If the Hinchingbrooke deficit hits £5m, the contract allows Circle to cut its losses and walk away.

Interim chief Steve Melton is no doubt exploring whether Circle can benefit from the PFI meltdown at Peterborough hospital, 24 miles up the A1. Hopes of any rescue for Peterborough City Hospital depend on it getting extra patients (and therefore funds) through its doors.

Circle has always been keen to close Hinchingbrooke’s small but costly A&E unit and would no doubt be happy for Peterborough to take over those urgent and complex cases, so that it could run the hospital more like one of its boutique private hospitals in Bath and Reading. But these services area also key to its financial viability’.

More proof, if any were needed, that private equity firms cannot and should not run NHS hospitals.