Richard Branson

These are the privateers profiting from privatising the NHS – Virgin are just the tip of the scalpel!

By David Wilson

“Illness is neither an indulgence for which people have to pay, nor an offence for which they should be penalised, but a misfortune, the cost of which should be shared by the community” – Aneurin Bevan, founder of the NHS

“Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wicked of men will do the most wicked of things for the greatest good of everyone” – John Maynard Keynes

Who are the NHS privateers?

Virgin Care leads the way in negating the founding principles of the NHS whilst claiming to promote the greatest good. – So I will start with them.

Over the past seven years they have been awarded NHS contracts worth over £2 billion. By this year, they were running over 400 NHS services.

Virgin Care has two arms to its business in the NHS: primary care services, including GP services and community-based NHS services.

In January 2018 Virgin Care Private was launched, opening its first health and wellbeing centre in Birmingham.This centre provides GP services, specialist consultations, diagnostics and tests on a pay-as-you-go service.

The company targets large contracts containing numerous services in the area of community health and social care. Since 2012 they have won these contracts in over seven UK regions.

When Virgin Care has failed to win contacts it has resorted to legal action. The full amount paid to date to Virgin by you and me as taxpayers could be as high as £2.6 million.

Labour MP Paula Sherriff, revealed that when she worked for Virgin Care the company insisted on “extra consultations before surgery, boosting their profits at the expense of the taxpayer and patient safety”.

The parent company, Virgin Group Holdings Ltd, is registered in the British Virgin Islands. Richard Branson and his family hold a £2.7 billion stake in this offshore, tax-free, tax-haven company.

But Virgin is just the tip of the scalpel…

NHS Support Federation, reveals that profit-driven companies such as Bupa, Virgin Care and Care UK have since 2013 won more than 130 NHS service contracts worth £2.6bn to provide NHS services.

Dr Mark Porter, of the British Medical Association, said:

“These figures show the extent of privatisation in the NHS following the pushing through of the Health and Social Care Act. – An act that the government denied loud and long would lead to privatisation, has done exactly that.

Enforcing competition has not only fragmented services and compromised the delivery of high-quality care, but it is also diverting vital funding away from frontline services to costly, complicated tendering processes, highlighting just how counterproductive the reorganisation has been.” 

At the beginning of 2017 private-sector companies had been invited to bid for 14% more NHS contracts than a year previously.

According to the Department of Health accounts, the private sector delivered a total of £8.7bn of NHS services for 2015/16, or around 7.6 per cent of the total NHS budget.

These figures exclude general practice, dentistry and community pharmacy, which can also be delivered by the private sector.

David Hare, chief executive of the Partners Network, which represents private sector providers, said there was a slow “evolutionary trajectory” of greater private sector involvement in the NHS.

So who, alongside Richard Branson and his family, are a part of this trajectory?
There may be others, but these are the ‘privateers’ I have discovered.

  • Alliance / Lodestone – Diagnostics for the NHS and independent sector
  • BDO – Commissioning services for the NHS
  • BMI – You can now choose to have your NHS treatment at a BMI Healthcare hospital
  • BUPA, the biggest private healthcare company which takes your money and then depends on the NHS to carry out expensive treatments
  • Capio, free family practice services if registered with them
  • Capita, IT, patient engagement, HR, payroll, estates, commissioning services
  • Cap Gemine, programme management and specialist technical expertise for the NHS
  • Care UK, Day care and homes for elderly. GP services, diagnostics, CATS, treatment centres, mental health services learning disability services. Annual income per year from the NHS of over £350 million
  • Centene, IT, digital technologies for NHS
  • Circle UK, Circle targets large community care contracts and is the first private company to run an NHS hospital – Hinchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire
  • Classic Care, homecare services
  • Diaverum UK Ltd, kidney services in partnership with the NHS
  • Exel Europe Ltd, consumer procurables acquired for NHS
  • Gemini, IT support for NHS
  • General Healthcare, a private specialist in fertility treatment
  • HCA International supports private company participation in NHS services. Through US companies Tenet Healthcare and Aspen Healthcare they provide “increasing opportunities to work with and support the National Health Service” 
  • IBM provides electronic staff records services to the NHS, payroll, pensions and other human resources functions. IBM’s service covers 1.4m employees at the NHS
  • InHealth Group, diagnostics for NHS throughout the UK
  • McKesson, IT support
  • Mouchel, Commissioning services
  • Nector Primecare, Home care, care homes, mental health services, children’s services, out-of-hours, dentistry and primary care
  • Netcare, a network of clinics set up in 2002 in the UK by South African company, which works under contract to the NHS
  • Optimum, part of of US United Health Group which works with the NHS to provide services such as contract negotiations and medication management
  • Partnership in Care, Largest independent provider of secure mental health facilities across the UK working with the NHS
  • Pathology First LLP and Facilities First LLP, providing pathology services to NHS Foundation Trusts
  • The Practice, 75% owned by US company Centene, providing primary care services and specialist clinical services to GPs
  • Priory Group, Provider of acute mental health care, specialist education, complex care and neuro-rehabilitation services, fostering and care homes
  • Ramsay, UK has a network of 22 acute hospitals in the UK delivering both private treatment and care under contract to the NHS
  • Spite Classic, Second largest private healthcare hospital group in the UK with 37 hospitals, with NHS admissions accounting for 25% of its business
  • Totally PLC, working with the NHS with out of hospital care, including physiotherapy, podiatry, dermatology, referral management services and clinical health coaching
  • United Health/Optum, Health needs assessment, GP Commissioning, performance & contract management, Medicines management

A historical note on Privateers: Richard Branson has a home on Necker Island, part of the British Virgin Isles. In the 17th century these islands were a centre of piracy. Yes I know peg-legged, one-eyed, walk-the-plank buccaneers. The truth is the ‘pirates’ were often escaped black slaves. The Jack Sparrow / Jonny Depp characterisation is myth which became reality in our times with the arrival of Richard Branson.


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