Posts Tagged ‘David Craigen’

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.