Wiltshire CCG seeking legal advice over ‘Care UK’ contract for Wiltshire’s new NHS 111 phone service

I have just read another interesting article from Toby Millet at ‘Marlborough News Online’ (read it here). (See also a BBC report here).

It seems that the out sourcing of the NHS 111 phone service in Wiltshire is not going too well. The launch is being delayed and the new Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is taking legal advice on the contract.

It appears that during tests on ‘out of hours calls’ during evenings and at weekends far too many calls were not answered within the required time limit and ambulances were called out for people who definitely did not need them – apparently in one case to someone with a sore throat.

The article gives full details of the problems but I would like to take a closer look at private health care provider, ‘Care UK’, who bought out the original winner of the 111 phone contract (another health care company called Harmoni).

‘Care UK’ is a British private health care provider well placed to take advantage of the outsourcing of the NHS under the new Health Care Bill. Its chairman, John Nash[6], made a donation[1][2] of £21,000 to the private office of Andrew Lansley when he was opposition spokes person for Health and who later became Secretary of State for Health. According to a Guardian report ‘Care UK’ has a reduced tax bill[3] by taking out loans through the Channel Islands and coming to special agreements with HMRC.

If the NHS were being outsourced, for the benefit of patients, to small or medium sized organisations or enterprises, embedded in the local community and with a stake in maintaining the principles of the NHS this might not be so worrying, but Care UK is one of a number of companies (Spire Healthcare, Care UK, Circle Health, Ramsay Health Care, General Healthcare, Virgin Care) that clearly see the NHS as a cash cow. These companies along with the likes of KPMG, McKinsey, Price Waterhouse[4] are positioned to drive through changes to our health care that will suit them and their share holders with little protection for the interests of the users. The “legalised corruption”[5] that is the “revolving door” where advisors and decision makers can move from these private companies into government and then back again with resulting huge conflicts of interest will mean that there will be little to prevent our health service becoming yet another conduit for transferring tax payers cash to multimillionaires and share holders.

[1]  “Andrew Lansley embroiled in ‘cash for influence’ row after accepting £21,000 donation from Care UK chairman John Nash”Mail Online. 15 January 2010. Retrieved 6 April 2011.

[2] “Andrew Lansley bankrolled by private healthcare provider”The Daily Telegraph. 14 January 2010. Retrieved 6 April 2011.

[3] “Firms poised to take advantage of NHS shake-up ‘avoid tax on their profits'”The Guardian. 17 March 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2013.

[4] NHS has been handed over to McKinsey, KPMG, Price Waterhouse.  Reason and Reality, 15th Jan 2013

[5] The NHS is threatened by legalised corruption  Reason and Reality, 4th march 2012

[6] The price tag for becoming an unelected government minister – seems like £300,000. “In 2013 it was announced that John Nash would become a schools minister.  He became a life peer as Baron Nash, of Ewelme in the County of Oxfordshire on 21 January 2013.  He and his wife have donated almost £300,000 to the Conservative party and according to the Telegraph, the appointment raises concern about a potential conflict of interest and appointment of donors though the Department for Education said he would not make business decisions whilst in office”. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Nash,_Baron_Nash  Wikipedia

UPDATENHS 111 implodes as GPC withdraws support for urgent care hotline  By Jaimie Kaffash, PULSE, 22 March 2013

Wiltshire’s new NHS111 telephone service delayed for a month  Tony Millett Marlborough News Online, 22 March 2013.

Patients are being put at risk due to catastrophic failings of the new NHS 111 non-emergency phone line, doctors have warned. Daily Telegraph, 28 Mar 2013.

More UPDATE: Delays, abandoned calls and an 11-hour wait for a call-back: Leaked document reveals the extent of NHS 111 performance issues  Pulse 12th April 2013

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