A new account of the privatisation of the NHS has revealed how George W. Bush, Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg all conspired to privatise the health service, even before the NHS was publicly funded.
The report, The Price of Privatisation: How George Osborne Saved the NHS, by the respected public relations firm Simon Grewal, said the government knew in May 2009 that private firms were not likely to have a “dignified” role for the future of the system.
In February 2010, the then Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, announced that he would abolish the private sector from the NHS’s board, leaving it to the private companies.
In March 2010, he announced that “the government is not going to be in the business of selling off NHS assets”, and that the privatised NHS would be run by private companies, rather than a government-owned entity.
The first privatisation, which saw the privatising firm IMS Health become the sole provider of NHS care in England, was completed in June 2010, followed by a second in September 2011.
A number of private firms then entered the market in the years leading up to the NHS closure, including Medica, a private company with operations in England that became the sole company in June 2013.
The private companies were able to take advantage of the government’s financial incentives to raise more money for the privatisations.
They raised £2.6bn for the two privatisations, and in 2015, Medica was awarded a contract worth £10.6 billion by the Government for the care of patients across the UK.
The new account reveals that the Government had “misjudged” the private market and the need for private sector participation in the NHS.
In a bid to prevent the privatises from happening, the private firms negotiated contracts with the government that were not competitive with the NHS but that would provide a level of private control that would protect the NHS and its services.
Simon Grewall, an independent consultant and former senior public relations consultant, told The Independent that the report showed how the Government’s decisions were influenced by political considerations.
Mr Grewals report also revealed that the Conservative Party was aware of the private firm’s plans to bid on the contracts in the run-up to the privatizations.
“The Conservatives were aware of this and were very concerned about the privatisers bidding,” he said.
“This was a situation where the government and private firms had a good relationship, but that relationship had deteriorated.”
Mr Gledall said that the new report “underscores that the government was in a situation of denial about the private bid, and it also highlights how they were not in a position to defend their own decision”.
“In the run up to [the privatisations], the Conservatives were well aware of Medica’s privatisation plans,” he added.
“And this report suggests they were deliberately trying to minimise their own responsibility and minimise the damage they caused to the health system.
The Government “had a great deal of power” to block the privatizations, he said, but did not “have the capacity to do anything about it”.
The privatisation scandal led to the deaths of more than 600 people and the closure of more NHS hospitals than any other privatisation.
The Conservatives were accused of allowing a “rogue” company to get into the running.
The report revealed that Mr Burnham had been warned that the private company was “a bit of a risk” in May 2010, when he announced the government would be leaving the NHS system.
This new account comes after it was revealed that George Osborne’s administration was responsible in 2010 for the government privatising the NHS at a cost of £300m.
Mr Osborne said in 2010 that the public sector was “at the end of its tether” and that there were “no longer any levers of government to break down the stranglehold of the financial markets”.
But the new accounts shows that the Treasury knew of Medics privatisation plan before it even went ahead.
The private firms’ contracts were “not competitive” with the existing NHS and that “wouldn’t be a problem for Medica”, the report shows.
The Treasury was also aware of a private bid to bid for the contracts, and the Tories knew that this would have been “a very strong bid” but decided to “dismantle Medica”.”
It’s a very interesting story.
There are some interesting details in there, but it doesn’t reveal what the government really knew about Medica.
“It suggests the government may have been aware of private bid bids and then tried to block them,” he explained.
“I don’t think there’s any way to dispute the fact that the Tory government was aware that the bid was not competitive, and that it would not be a good idea to bid against the bid from a private firm.”
So the question is, what exactly did they know about Medicas bid?
I’m not convinced they were aware it was