“We made three mistakes that I regret, the first being restructuring the NHS. The rest are minor.”— unnamed Senior Conservative Cabinet Minister
Lots of people have vested interests in the NHS ‘reforms’ taking shape.
- International private health care companies who have been involved for some years in advising the government on how to dismantle the NHS are also likely to gain commercial benefits from the ‘reformed’ system. Many such companies are clients of consultancy firms such as McKinsey and Company.
[This particular international management consultancy is said to have particularly close links to the Conservative party, to have offered officials generous hospitality, and to have played a significant role in shaping and implementing the dismantling of the NHS.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2099940/NHS-health-reforms-Extent-McKinsey–Companys-role-Andrew-Lansleys-proposals.html. The financial rewards for McKinsey have been enormous (estimated at hundreds of millions).
- Private health firms, many without previous experience of health care provision, are quickly entering the new NHS market as they recognise the potential profits. Senior figures within many such firms are known to have made large financial contributions to the Conservative party. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/nhs-reform-leaves-tory-backers-105302.
- Many MPs and members of the House of Lords have financial and vested interests in private health care. http://socialinvestigations.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/nhs-privatisation-compilation-of.html. In November 2014, for example, it became clear that Stephen Dorrell, recent Chair of the parliamentary Health Select Committee, had taken a 3-day a week job advising KPMG, a private company considering bidding for a £1 billion NHS contract to manage patient records. Mr Dorrell refused to step down from being an MP until the general election, claiming there was no incompatibility between his two jobs. Between 2012 and 2014 private companies with financial links to Conservative politicians who voted for the HSC Act (2012) won NHS contracts worth £1.5 billion (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/03/healthcare-companies-links-tories-nhs-contracts).
- It is not uncommon for government ministers to go to work for private companies after they leave office. Andrew Lansley, for example, previously Secretary of State for Health and one of the chief architects of the marketisation of the NHS, has been employed by US based management consultants Bain & Co to advise its clients on ‘innovation in healthcare’. Rules governing such appointments stipulate that it’s not OK to become personally involved in lobbying or to use any privileged information gained from time in government – at least for two years after leaving office. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/oct/20/andrew-lansley-advise-firms-healthcare-reforms.
- There is what’s been called a ‘revolving door culture’ in the civil service, with a continual exchange of staff between the Department of Health and private healthcare companies and consultants, such as BUPA, Dr Foster, and Tribal, blurring the boundary between the public and private sectors. (see http://www.hospitaldr.co.uk/features/the-people-behind-liberating-the-nhs-reform-part-3. For instance, Simon Stevans (advisor to Tony Blair and Alan Milburn, Labour Health Minister 1997-98), left the NHS in 2004 to work in the USA for multinational health insurance company UnitedHealth. He returned in 2014 to become Chief Executive Officer of NHS England.
- There are also numerous lobbying firms who not only attempt to shape government policy but who also seem to have close links to politicians and parliamentary staff. For example, the consultancy firm McKinsey sponsored the head of the Care Quality Commission, Lord Prior (now NHS Productivity Minister), to visit private health facilities in the USA (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/top-tory-claims-half-nhs-6586241#ICID=sharebar_twitter). McKinsey provides an increasing number of NHS services, including commissioning, as well as advising private health care companies.
To see how corporate lobbying works, see http://www.spinwatch.org/index.php/issues/lobbying/item/5638-your-guide-to-corporate-lobbying and for information on the links between lobbyists and parliament see “The Health Industry Lobby Tour” (below).
- Some doctors, including GPs, have a conflict of interest between their personal and financial interests and their duty to act in their patients’ interests. (See http://abetternhs.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/conflicts-of-interest-and-nhs-reform/ and also http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/nov/09/healthcare-sell-off-gps).
For further details of the network of interests, see https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/tamasin-cave/privatising-cabal-at-heart-of-our-nhs.