Lowdown stories and the editor’s pick from the rest of the media

This week we are taking part in a public discussion about privatisation so we have produced a series of features, articles and keys facts to summarise the topic.

Why does NHS privatisation matter?

A History of NHS privatisation, part 3

Under cover of covid…

The great consultancy boom – from Covid to ICSs

New NHS White Paper – the end of outsourcing?

US company in takeover of network of GP practices

Privatisation: Key facts


Matt Hancock urged to deal with government ‘cronyism’ after it lost High Court ruling

On Friday 19 February, a high court judge ruled that the Department of Health and Social Care acted unlawfully in failing to publish billions of pounds worth of COVID-19 contracts.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has defended his officials among media scrutiny. The judge in the ruling said the health secretary had “failed to publish redacted contracts in accordance with the transparency policy”.

By law, the government is required to publish a “contract award notice” within 30 days of a deal being agreed for goods or services worth more than £120,000.

Matt Hancock justified the law breaking on Sky News, commenting “The reason is that there was a global shortage of PPE […] paperwork got delayed by on average just over a fortnight.”

The legal action was taken against the DHSC by the Good Law Project, over what is described as a “wholesale failure” to reveal details of the deals it struck during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Full story – Sky News, 21 February 2021.

A year later nurses still have ‘inadequate’ protection – without action the death toll will continue to rise

Healthcare workers are three to four times more likely to contract and die from Covid-19 than the general public. The Prime Minister is being urged to prevent further deaths by action on evidence around the need for better ventilation and higher grade PPE.

The majority of nursing staff care for Covid-19 patients with just standard surgical masks, gloves, and a thin plastic apron. During the pandemic at least 930 health and care workers have died and many more are suffering long-term adverse effects from coronavirus.

A letter to the PM signed by the RCN and BMA, among other leading health organisations, states “a change in approach must be implemented at speed” to protect staff and patients.

Full story – Nursing Notes, 21 February 2021.

The government’s reorganisation of the NHS risks doing more harm than good. Patients must be at the heart of it

David Cameron’s top-down reorganisation of the NHS back in 2012 was sold as the reorganisation to end all reorganisations. Instead of less bureaucracy and improved cancer survival rates we got demoralised staff, distracted clinicians, waster money and a fragmented service failing to deliver the coordinated care many patients needed.

In the midst of a pandemic, we are now faced with another round of restructuring.

Labour has warned that enshrining competition rather than collaboration at the heart NHS reorganisation would not deliver the care quality that patients need with a demographic of rising chronic disease, long-term conditions and an ageing population.

Full story – By Jon Ashworth, Politics Home, 21 February 2021.

High-cost lenders ‘exploit NHS workers on pandemic frontline’

A look into the story of a nurse at Scarborough general hospital, reliant on payday loans to meet her bills and working every shift possible to pay them back.

A study from University of Edinburgh Business School has found thousands of NHS workers have been left heavily reliant on high-cost loans charging exorbitant interest rates because they are being excluded from more affordable mainstream options.

Alan Campbell, founded of Salad Money, commented: “The conclusions reached by the University of Edinburg should rightly horrify anyone with a sincere and genuine interest in the financial and emotional wellbeing of the NHS workforce, particularly at this time when their roles are more vital than ever in battling the global pandemic.”

Full story – The Guardian, 21 February 2021.

NHS sees surge in referrals for eating disorders amon gunder-18s during Covid

Observer analysis of government data found that referrals of young people with eating disorders for NHS treatment shot up by almost half last year in England. Doctors are warning that lives are being ruined.

Referrals initially fell in the first two quarters of last year but then surged in the final three months of the year.

Head of Communications for the eating disorder charity Beat told the Observer: “We’re hearing from people that lockdown has had an impact on their mental health and their eating disorder, we’ve heard from people that they’re relapsing because of lockdown.”

Full story – The Guardian, 20 February 2021.

2021 NHS White Paper: government seizes on the pandemic as an opportunity

White Paper’s are used in the UK to present government policy preferences before introducing legislation and testing public opinion. The recent White Paper ‘Integration and innovation: working together to improve health and social care for all’ was leaked recently with headlines suggesting a significant change in government policy.

Despite implications that this White Paper could reduce the privatisation of NHS services – Keep Our NHS Public have argued the opposite is fact. They outline evidence of false statements and empty premises, the mis-selling of reforms as anti-privatisation and why the White Paper does not spell the end of privatisation in an in-depth article.

Full story – Keep Our NHS Public, 18 February 2021.

Bradford MP, Imran Hussain, demands Government give ‘guarantee’ to end NHS privatisation

The MP for Bradford East has told the Government to make a “cast-iron guarantee” it will rid the NHS of private companies amid its new proposals.

Hussain cited the controversy around a private subsidiary company being created for non-medical staff in Bradford as an example of the dangers around privatising parts of the NHS. This example related to plans in 2019 at Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which would have seen porters moved to a subsidiary company, but were overturned following a Unison campaign.

Matt Hancock brought forward proposals for a new Health and Care Bill in early February but Mr Hussain is concerned the proposals have said little about existing private providers in the NHS or about the widespread use of private companies with little or no formal tendering process throughout the pandemic.

Full story – Telegraph & Argus, 15 February 2021.

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