Crippling PFI Deals Leave Britain £222bn in Debt

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Courtesy of

Every man, woman and child in Britain is more than £3,400 in debt – without knowing it and without borrowing a single penny – thanks to the proliferation of controversial deals used to pay for infrastructure such as schools and hospitals.

The UK owes more than £222bn to banks and businesses as a result of Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) – “buy now, pay later” agreements between the government and private companies on major projects. The startling figure – described by experts as a “financial disaster” – has been calculated as part of an Independent on Sunday analysis of Treasury data on more than 720 PFIs. The analysis has been verified by the National Audit Office (NAO).

The headline debt is based on “unitary charges” which start this month and will continue for 35 years. They include fees for services rendered, such as maintenance and cleaning, as well as the repayment of loans underwritten by banks and investment companies.

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The situation is expected to worsen as PFI projects spread across the world (Getty)

Basically, a PFI is like a mortgage that the government takes out on behalf of the public. The average annual cost of meeting the terms of the UK’s PFI contracts will be more than £10bn over the next decade.

And the cost of servicing PFIs is growing. Last year, it rose by £5bn. It could rise further, with inflation. The upward creep is the price taxpayers’ pay for a financing system which allows private firms to profit from investing in infrastructure.

An NAO briefing, released last month, says: “In the short term using private finance will reduce reported public spending and government debt figures.” But, longer term, “additional public spending will be required to repay the debt and interest of the original investment”.

A case in point is Britain’s biggest health trust, Barts Health NHS Trust in London, which was placed in special measures last month. It is £93m in debt – struggling under the weight of a 43-year PFI contract under which it will pay back more than £7bn on contracts valued at a fraction of that sum (£1.1bn) Continue reading

TTIP: Transatlantic Trade Deal Text Leaked to BBC

Which ever ist or ism you want to apply, it solidifies the power of a few. Courtesy of Glenn Campbell @ BBC Scotland:

A leaked draft of what the European Union wants excluded from a new trade deal with the United States has been obtained by the BBC.

The document describes itself as the EU’s “initial offer” in negotiations over the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP).

It includes the wording that UK ministers have said will protect the NHS from privatisation.

Anti-TTIP campaigners say a specific exemption for the NHS is still needed.
The 103-page document is headed “trade in services and investment: schedule of specific commitments and reservations”.

It was produced before the most recent round of TTIP negotiations in Brussels were held at the beginning of this month.

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On health, the document states: “The EU reserves the right to adopt or maintain any measure with regard to the provision of all health services which receive public funding or State support in any form”.

The wording is the same as that used in a similar free trade agreement between the EU and Canada (CETA).

The UK trade minister, Lord Livingston, said last week that this text ensured “publicly funded health services are excluded”.

The European Commission has also previously said TTIP would not affect how NHS services are provided, whether in Scotland or the rest of the UK.

But Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has called for the NHS to be specifically excluded from the deal. Continue reading

Stoke NHS Hospital Scanning Contract Won by Private Firm

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Courtesy of The Sentinel:

A CONTRACT to diagnose illnesses in thousands of patients has been handed to a private firm even though the NHS offered to do the work for seven million pounds cheaper.

The scans for cancer and other conditions are performed on a state-of-the-art machine at the Royal Stoke University Hospital partly paid for by public donations.

But it is to be operated by staff from Alliance Medical which has been given the scanning service in Staffordshire, Cheshire, Shropshire and Lancashire by the Government.

A competing NHS bid led by Royal Stoke’s trust was turned down by NHS England which had put the work out to tender.

They are now set to remain following the award of the 10-year contract worth an estimated £80 million.

Health campaigners said the move was motivated by political dogma to get the private sector more involved in public services.

It comes as a bitter row continues over the decision to put £1.2 billion of cancer and end-of-of-life care on the market.

Most of the cash for the £3 million machine came from a bequest plus a £1 million Keele University research grant – but £250,000 was donated by the public.

Ron Alcock, aged 75, from Cheadle gave £1,000 after the death of wife Jeannette of leukaemia in 2009.

He said: “Because of Mr Cameron’s policies private firms are coming more into the NHS.

“That scares people that it will be privatised and could deter them from raising money for things in future.” Continue reading

NHS Services Cut in Nottingham After Doctors Quit Rather than Work for Private Firm

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Courtesy of Charlie Cooper @ The Independent:

An NHS hospital has been forced to scrap highly rated services for patients with severe skin conditions including skin cancer after an “exodus” of senior doctors reluctant to work for a private-sector subcontractor.

Nottingham University Hospitals Trust said it would no longer be able to provide acute adult dermatology, including emergency care, after losing six of its eight consultants.

Five of those departing are understood to have left rather than transfer to Circle, a private healthcare company which won a contract to provide most of the local dermatology services last year. The closure of the service has raised concerns about the impact of privatisation on the NHS, with doctors worried about job security in the private sector.

The trust lost out to Circle, despite warnings from senior doctors that they would leave rather than be transferred out of the NHS, the Health Service Journal reported.

It is understood that the senior doctors who left were concerned over job stability at a private employer, and also had fears that a profit-driven provider would not offer opportunities for academic research or training.

The trust has said it will stop providing acute dermatology services to new patients from early next year because of a lack of consultants.

While Circle’s outpatient treatment centre will remain open, any patients with severe conditions will no longer be seen by a specialist at the hospital and may have to be referred elsewhere.

Health commissioners said they were working with the trust and Circle to ensure patients get the care they need. Circle said its Nottingham treatment centre was providing a good service, that it had taken on extra staff and would work with local commissioners to “find a solution”. Continue reading

Named and shamed: The government MPs profiting from NHS sell-off

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Sickening: These are some of the prominent government ministers who have profited from allowing private companies to provide NHS healthcare services. Meanwhile…

Courtesy of Voxpolitical:

Here’s a new wrinkle on an old story: The social media have been publishing lists of MPs with shares in private healthcare companies – and therefore have their noses in the trough as these companies profit from NHS contracts – since before the Health and Social Care Act 2012 was passed. Now the Unite union has published its own list and the mainstream media have got involved.

Good for Unite – at last this corruption is receiving the attention it deserves.

Named on the list of 71 Coalition MPs (64 Tories; seven Liberal Democrats) are David Cameron and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, along with former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley – proving that corruption played a huge part in the introduction of private firms into NHS work.

Nick Clegg and Vince Cable are also named, providing a clear indication of why the Liberal Democrats colluded in this – we can only call it – crime. Even though none of the politicians mentioned in the list acted against current UK laws, they all acted dishonestly in claiming that the change was good for the country when in fact they meant it was good for themselves.

How many of them declared this clear conflict of interest while voting for the Health and Social Care Act in 2012? None seems the most likely answer.

According to the Daily Mirror, “All 71 MPs named in the dossier voted in favour of the Government’s controversial Health and Social Care Act in 2012, which opened up the NHS to more private firms.”

The revelation comes ahead of Friday’s vote on Labour MP Clive Efford’s Private Members’ Bill, which calls on MPs to scrap key sections of the Act.

This Bill is not to be confused with Labour’s plan to abolish the Act altogether, which could only happen after a Labour government is elected in May next year. The UK Parliamentary system works in such a way that the sitting government can never lose a whipped vote as its members outnumber all other groups in the House of Commons; it is a shame that this blog has to spell it out but some readers have demonstrated a lack of understanding in this regard.

The list includes Andrew Lansley’s now-infamous £21,000 donation in November 2009 from John Nash, the former chairman of Care UK, and Jeremy Hunt received more than £20,000 from hedge fund baron Andrew Law, a major investor in healthcare firms. Continue reading

The billions of wasted NHS cash no-one wants to mention

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Image: Art band KLF burn a million pounds

Courtesy of Caroline Molloy @ Open Democracy:

Calls to solve the NHS cash crisis by charging patients have mounted this week, with the NHS Confederation calling for £75 a night ‘hotel fees’ for hospital stays, or much longer waiting lists.

But there is one pot of money that sits curiously unexamined, glistening and untouched.

It’s the cost of the NHS ‘market’ itself. Administering the hugely expensive artificial ‘marketplace’ created by successive governments to allow both NHS and private ‘providers’ to compete with each other to offer services to NHS and other ‘purchasers’.

No-one knows the exact cost of this bureaucratic ‘marketplace’. A recent estimate by rebel Lib Dems put the figure as high as £30billion a year. Dr Jacky Davis and other doctors and campaigners including the National Health Action Party have put it at £10billion a year. The Centre of Health & the Public Interest put it at a ‘conservative’ £4.5billion a year.

Even the most conservative of these estimates is a yearly amount which would, if re-directed away from useless market activities, fund both the £2billion annual NHS shortfall and free critical social care to everyone, which the Kings Fund’s Barker Commission recently said would cost ‘substantially less’ than £3billion a year.

Despite fierce urging from expert MPs to look at what the ‘market’ costs the NHS more closely, the government, mainstream media, think tanks and policy makers have dismissed, ignored and even suppressed this information, with unevidenced assertions that ‘modern healthcare systems’ need vastly expensive bureaucracy, market or no market.

Successive governments wedded to ‘market reform’ have refused to produce useful figures that would definitively establish the cost of the NHS market. It has been left to academics, MPs and activists to try and fill the void, through historical and international comparisons, as well as tentative attempts to cost different activities that are forced on the NHS by the ‘market’.

Hiding the figures

In 2010 the Health Select Committee found that running the NHS as a ‘market’ cost the NHS 14% of it’s budget a year.

The Select Committee noted that the NHS would have some administration expenses even if it didn’t run itself as a ‘market’. But they noted evidence from the NHS Chief Historian, Professor Charles Webster that in the pre-market late-80s, the NHS spent only 5% of its budget on administration.

The difference in administration costs pre- and post-market – 9% of the NHS budget – is over £10billion a year of the current £120bn budget. That’s more than the entire cost of every GP in the land. Continue reading

Calls for greater disclosure on NHS chiefs’ meetings with private US health insurer

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UnitedHealth used to employ Simon Stevens, above, NHS England’s chief executive. Photograph by Owen Humphreys/PA

Courtesy of Jamie Doward @ The Guardian:

A handful of consultancy firms and a health insurance giant bidding for NHS contracts have been operating a discreet forum at which they receive regular briefings from senior health service managers charged with ushering in the new era of competition among its providers. The revelation has raised fears that the NHS is falling victim to a land grab by a few powerful business interests.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the campaign group Spinwatch shine a light on the workings of an obscure group whose existence and limited membership has alarmed campaigners who want the NHS to remain public.

The Commissioning Support Industry Group (CSIG) is largely unknown to outsiders. Its members are jockeying to win an estimated £1bn of contracts advising the new doctor-led clinical commissioning groups that will be responsible for spending more than two-thirds of the NHS budget on purchasing patient care.

Supporters say it will empower doctors and bring in competition among NHS providers. Those awarded contracts to advise doctors’ groups will be involved in patient care reforms, drug purchasing, negotiating hospital contracts and, crucially, outsourcing services to the private sector.

Critics who warn the reforms will see big consultancies given contracts to advise doctors’ groups say their fears are confirmed after learning more about the CSIG. A series of emails between members of the group and NHS England officials reveal that UnitedHealth, the giant US health insurer that formerly employed NHS England’s chief executive, Simon Stevens, chairs the group, provides its secretariat and recently paid for senior health managers to visit its care centres in the US on a five-day fact-finding mission.

Dr Chris Exeter, UH’s lobbyist, who in 2011 worked on non-health matters for Low Associates, a lobbying firm run by Sally Low, wife of former health secretary Andrew Lansley, helps co-ordinate meetings of the CSIG, whose other members are consultancies KPMG, Capita, McKinsey, EY and PWC. Its meetings, which began in May 2013, are unminuted. Continue reading