Posts tagged with Privatisation


Virgin Shags Assura

Big business is all about big branding, and nobody does branding better than Branson. His red logo is just about everywhere – travel, banks, media, mobiles, you name it – except healthcare. Until now, that is. Earlier this week, the Virgin Group bagged a three quarter share in Assura Medical, the company that runs the Khazi Klinics.

Virgin have been sniffing the panties of healthcare for some time, but, like most novices, were for some time unsure about how to proceed. “For us, this is the culmination of what has probably been five years of knowing we wanted to be in this space but really not finding the right entry point,” said Gordon McCallum, chief executive of Virgin Management. Now they have found the ‘entry point’, the shagging can begin in earnest.

The Brave New World of the BOGOF NHS

Pity the poor patients in Yorkshire. Hot on the heels of the Haxby scandal, which saw GPs mail-shotting patients special offer in-growing toenail ops in your own lunchtime deals (£146.95 a pop), we now have Assura East Riding LLP (another bunch of suits dressed as GPs) huffing and puffing all the way to the Competition Panel about alleged predatory pricing, not by their local Asda, but by their local NHS trust. AER claim that York Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust tendered a below cost orthopaedic service, and won, and as a result the local PCT told AER and its bid to, ahem, bog off. You can read the sordid details of AER’s complaint to the CCP here (pdf, 2.3Mb).

Basic Instinct III

Dr Clare Gerada, the well-known suicide cyclist, and Chair for the time being of the Royal College of General Practitioners, appeared on the SuperMarr show this morning. She was in fiery mood, with short cut red hair and a dress so red that it might itself have been on fire. Beside her, Mr Stephen Dorrell MP, one-time Health Secretary in the Major government, smouldered in a grey brown wood-ash jacket. When Clare appeared on the verge of bursting into flames, Stephen puffed political smoke. Had a mirror been at hand, he would no doubt have flashed political semaphore too. For all Dr No knows, he may even have done so, but Dr No’s Sunday sensibilities had at the start been rudely corrupted, and his eyes fixed, by a rogue cameraman who had spotted the stage was set not for the SuperMarr show but for Basic Instinct III. The camera lingered hopefully. At one point, Clare raised her hands from her lap. The cameraman’s basic instincts twitched palpably, his finger on zoom; but it wasn’t to be. The only flashes, were there to be any, would come from Stephen’s mirror, or the dying embers in his wood-ash jacket. We were back on easy, like Sunday morning.

The Maltese Falcon

Dr No is fed up with the Health and Social Care Bill, and the interminable waffle that surrounds it. To him, it is clearly the death warrant to the National Health Service. Once enacted, it will allow any willing cowboy – and that includes the unscrupulous doctors amongst us - to ride into town, and hawk their wares. Britain’s greatest post-war achievement, healthcare on need not ability to pay, will be dynamited, and Wild West law will prevail. Many, far too many, will perish.

Faced with this threat, what do we have? Walls of argument as penetrable as fog. Touching faith in democratic and parliamentary process. But as Dr No wades through Hansard, he finds no cause for celebration. The worthy but windy briefings swirl away as an autumn mist. The Noble Lords, when not bemoaning the declining standard of Westminster biscuits, cast their breath on the looking glass of truth, and see not the angled knife at our health service’s throat, but instead their own wondrous learning, so wonderful to behold.

If It Walks Like a Duck...

Dr No has no doubt that the most devastating blow to be wrought by the Tories on the National Health Service in their Health and Social Care Bill is the abolition of the Secretary of State’s duty to provide a comprehensive health service. At a stroke, it removes ministerial responsibility and accountability, and so renders the NHS as an army without a chief, a supertanker with no one on the bridge, a body without a head. And when mayhem arrives, as it surely must, when the troops run wild, or the tanker strays off course, there will be no one in charge, no one on whose door we can knock, and demand redress. So long as the Secretary of State has ‘acted with a view’, an invidious wording blessed with the legal slipperiness of a bar of soap, he can profess to have done his duty, and declare, even as the tanker hits the rocks: ‘not my problem’.

Services and the Split

Notwithstanding their superficially opposed raisons d'être, the armed forces, also known as ‘the Services’, and the National Health Service, are remarkably similar. Both are huge and complex organisations, charged with providing services vital to our well-being. Yet, for some reason or other, the NHS in England is run on market principles, making use of the so-called purchaser provider split. The armed services have no such split.

NHS Scotland and NHS England are both national health services that provide health care to their respective peoples. NHS England is run on market principles, making use of the so-called purchaser provider split; NHS Scotland has no such split. Indeed, prior to the Hacksaw years, NHS England had no such split.

The Minister for Impotence

The fallout from the sorry tale of the PIP implants that went pop in the night is starting to settle. We have calls for the MHRA, the agency who green-lighted the PIP implants, to pull its finger out of its prostheses, and get some dentures with edge. What else, it is now asked, has the agency, which green-lighted breast implants filled with a Vulcan’s brew of fuel-additive enriched industrial grade rubber, also endorsed? Mobile phones recycled as pace-makers? Mild steel hips that will rust before time? Could it be that, far from entering the bionic age, we are instead in an ironic age, where that which pretends to improve turns out to do quite the opposite? Will we, indeed, ever know? We shall have to wait and see.

When a Dentist Sneezes, the NHS Catches a Cold

Dr No’s NHS dentist is a likeable old cove. Asked how he proposed to fix Dr No’s new crown in place, he announced ‘Bostik Number Five’ – a Dr No response if ever there was one. So – just to be clear – this post is not about knocking dentists as a profession. What it is about is looking at what happens when you run a substantial private mostly insurance based system alongside a publicly funded NHS one; and what has happened in dentistry does not bode well for the rest of the NHS.

On Monday, Channel Four’s Dispatches programme invited dentists to open wide. A number obliged, and an unedifying collection of drill sharks, cement mixers and card snitchers sprung into view. The general wheeze was to get you, an NHS patient, in the chair, and then offer a Hobson’s choice of private treatment, at which point wallets, inevitably, opened wider than mouths.

It Could Be Fatal

The Today programme this morning fingered Jimbo as an Anglo-Sassenach. There wasn’t much he could do about it, except take a side-swipe at Humph by declaring that at least he wasn’t a Boyo, because the Sassenach evidence was in his DNA. It was the kind of case that Police Constables are wont to refer to as an open-and-shut case. The Bannock was laid bare, a faggot dressed as haggis. Auntie, on health and safety advice, thoughtfully provided a counsellor, in case it all proved to much for Jimbo. It was certainly too much for Humph, who could be heard in the distance cackling and laughing all the way to the allotment.

A Nod’s as Good as a Wink…

Not content with just nuking the NHS – so last year, my dear - it now appears that Lang-Ho and the Con-Doms – fresh from turning a blind eye to city bonuses – are lining up to offer their private healthcare pals an eye-watering billion dollar bung to ‘ease’ their entry into the post-NHS healthcare market.

The proposals – buried deep in last week’s Health and Social Care Bill Impact Assessment – have arisen because a management consultant (KPMG) report estimates that Lang-Ho’s non-NHS provider buddies are at a financial disadvantage compared to NHS providers: