Posts Tagged ‘McKinsey’

Private Eye: Tory NHS Privatisers Heading Back into Government

March 5, 2020

This fortnight’s issue of Private Eye, for 6th to 19th March 2020, has a worrying piece, ‘Smear Campaign’, in their ‘HP Sauce’ column on page 13. This reports that Boris, having won the election, is reneging on his promise not to privatise or commercialise the NHS. Instead, two Tory MPs with connections to the Serco and the private accountancy firm, McKinsey, respectively, which were deeply involved in the privatisation and outsourcing of NHS services seems to be coming closer to getting into government. It also names another senior NHS official, who is also in favour of privatisation and who also has connections to the same wretched bunch of profiteers. The article runs

“There has been no increase in NHS privatisation and there won’t be under a Conservative government”, the Tories insisted during the election campaign. But two of Boris Johnson’s new health ministers come from leading health privatisers.

Edward Argar, minister responsible for NHS England, was chief lobbyist for outsourcer Serco before he became an MP in 2015. Serco’s involvement in NHS privatisation includes some what the Tory manifesto liked to call “Labour’s disastrous PFI deals.”

Then there’s Helen Whatley, the MP for Faversham and Mid Kent and now minister for health and care integration, who was a management consultant in the health division of consultancy McKinsey from 2007 to 2015. McKinsey’s long-running interest in NHS privatisation includes helping former Tory health secretary Andrew Lansley draw up the reforms in 2012 that created many more opportunities for private firms to be “commissioned” for NHS work.

Though th egovernment was keen to close down NHS commercialisation as an issue during the last election, the appointment of a former McKinsey consultant as health minister suggests it is no longer worried on this score now it has such a big majority.

McKinsey’s influence was further cemented in January when NHS England appointed Penny Dash, its head of healthcare for Europe,to chair one of London’s five “integrated care systems” (ICS). These were set up to make the NHS and local authority social care work better together – a responsibility that will now be overseen by new minister and ex-McKinseyite Whatley. NHS England tells the Eye that Dash is “in the process of retiring” from McKinsey, though there is no set date: thus she will simultaneously work for NHS England and McKinsey until her retirement is complete.

Dash, who has also worked for the health department, typifies McKinsey’s enthusiasm for privatisation. In 2016 she talked up the Alzira plan, a Spanish scheme whereby a private firm takes responsibility for providing care to a given population in return for a fixed, per-capita payment. In 2011, Dash tried to revive interest in an idea rejected by Tony Blair, which would have given women needing a smear test or patients wanting an X-ray a voucher to shop around among providers. Will ideas like smear vouchers soon be back on the agenda? Watch this space…

I sincerely hope not, but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they will. Nor would I be surprised if Cummings and crew aren’t discussing them even now.

There should be absolutely no surprise that the privatisation of the NHS is back in the Tory sights. As Mike’s pointed out in his piece today about Boris’ mendacious answers about nurses’ bursaries and free hospital car parking, the Tories are absolutely incapable of telling the truth. As for the guff about ‘Labour’s disastrous PFI deals’, well, yes, they were disastrous. But who dreamed up the Private Finance Initiative in the first place? You guessed it – the Tories. It was Peter Lilley’s big idea to open up the NHS to private investment.

The fact that Boris and his sordid band were desperate to deny they were going to privatise the NHS at the election shows how important it is that Labour should oppose NHS privatisation and demand its renationalisation. As for Serco and McKinsey, they should be thrown out of government contracting immediately. And Dash, Argar and Whatley should be kept as far from government and the NHS as possible.

Don’t believe the Tories lies – they are determined to privatise the health service. And that is something this country cannot afford.

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.

Vox Political: Hospitals Overstretched, but Chief Nursing Officer Wants Beds Cut

January 7, 2017

Yesterday Mike also put up a story commenting on a tweet by Clive Peedell, of the NHS Action Party. Peedell was justifiably outraged by the attitude of the Chief Nursing Officer, Janet M. Cummings. At a time when the NHS is seriously overstretched because of a shortage of beds, Cummings decided that the number of Acute beds should be cut. Peedell stated that she should resign. Mike concurs, but asks if anyone knows the procedure for how to make the public’s feelings known about this.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/06/hospitals-warn-over-patient-numbers-while-nursing-officer-wants-bed-numbers-cut-contradiction/

Unfortunately, Cummings isn’t the only senior official within the NHS, who seems determined to destroy public healthcare. Back when Blair was P.M., the head of NHS strategy was Dr Penny Dash, who was as keen as Blair was to privatise the health service. In 2002 she wrote an article in the Graun about how the government should encourage consultants, surgeons

and indeed other groups of doctors, to form their own companies (or join existing private health providers) to sell their services back to the NHS.

She continued

Freed from the stifling grip of the NHS, these would be able to perform procedures in either the NHS or private hospitals, and would be able to form businesses of their own, raise capital, invest in new technology, or join up with the suppliers of such, and then would be able to offer a ‘full service solution’ to failing NHS hospitals. This, she claimed, could be the development that Blair and Milburn really wanted. (See Stewart Player, ‘Ready for Market’, in Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis, NHS-SOS, pp. 46-7). You won’t be surprised to learn that after leaving the Department of Health, Dash went off to work for McKinsey, the American private insurance giant. She played a leading role in producing the two ‘Darzi’ reports recommending limiting NHS provision in London, and the system of privately run polyclinics. (p. 60).

And then in 2006, there was the establishment of the National Leadership Network of 150 health policy makers, management consultants, NHS Trust and private healthcare executives, as well as medical professionals, leaders and regulators, to ‘provide collective leadership for the next phase of transformation, advise ministers on developing policies and promote shared values and behaviours.’ And one of the first documents they produced, recommending the introduction of privatised services shared between the NHS and private sector, was Strengthening Local Services: The Future of the Acute Hospital. It seems to me that Cummings is a product, one way or another, of that network.

Mike wrote an article earlier this week stating very clearly that there was a toxic culture at the top of the NHS. It started with Blair, and its grown and expanded with Cameron, May and the Conservatives, aided by the Lib Dems. The only person, who has shown they genuinely want to roll back the privatisation of the NHS to Jeremy Corbyn.

He needs our support.

And the others need to be kicked out.

Health Regulator Schmoozed by Lobbying Companies

March 22, 2014

David Bennett monitor pic

David Bennett of the Government Healthcare Regulator Monitor – now enjoying company largesse with private healthcare firms.

This fortnight’s issue of Private Eye for the 21 March – 3rd April also contains a story about the way the health regulator, Monitor, is being approached and its chief executive, David Bennett, taken out to a variety of cultural events, by a series of lobbying companies.

Monitor is the government body in charge of supervising the closures, mergers and take-overs that will now occur after the passage of Clause 119. The Eye states that these will become more common as health budgets are further cut and more NHS Trusts are forced into deficit. The health regulator has the duty of ‘promoting provision of healthcare services which is economic, efficient and effective, and maintains or improves the quality of services’. It is therefore required to consider improving competition and the integration of services. The Eye states that judging ‘by the pro-marketization companies schmoozing its senior officials (most of whom are themselves former management consultants), however, competition is likely to win over cooperation every time’.

Monitors chief executive, David Bennett, who was formerly a partner in McKinsey Ross, has been treated to a variety of artistic and cultural events.

Boston Consulting, a US consultancy with a large and expanding health care business over here, took him to the Royal Academy, as did BUPA and FTI Economics. KPMG, who now employ Mark Britnell, who was previously the NHS’ commercial director, took him to a Radiohead concert at the O2 arena. They also took him to a number of receptions and dinners. One of these was for the chief medical officer of the US hospital group, Virginia Mason. BUPA took him to their ‘stakeholder dinner’, as well as a series of receptions for former employees of McKinsey.

Adrian Masters, Monitor’s Strategy Director, was also taken to lunch by Public Projects policy. This organisation describes their ‘central theme’ as “shifting responsibility for the provision of services and systems to independent sector partners’ – in other words, privatisation. Masters is also a former consultant with McKinsey.

Lastly, the Eye mentions that staff from PwC, who advise struggling NHS trusts, also took Monitor’s ‘managing director, provider regulation’ to Lords for the cricket match between England and New Zealand.

The report can be read on page. 20.

In other words, it’s an example of the soft corruption all too common in British politics, in which the heads of government bodies are taken to agreeable lunches and other events by the very people they are supposed to regulate. This case is especially offensive given the fact that all the companies involved are hoping for a piece of the rapidly privatised NHS. As was revealed this week, even the Tories recognise that the public do not want the NHS to be privatised. But nevertheless, as it looks like it’s going to be immensely profitable, they’re pushing ahead for it anyway.