£30k to buy access to NHS policy staff


As if any further evidence were needed of the ruinous effect of this government on the NHS, and the damage that is being done to it as a public institution that exists for the good of its patients and of the population at large.

I’ve come across (thanks to Rick B – @tenpercent on Twitter) an ad for last week’s NHS Confederation conference and exhibition that gives the clearest possible indication of the ‘NHS for sale’ ethos that prevails under the Tory-led coalition.

The PDF event brochure available on the NHS Confederation website offered

an unparalleled opportunity to engage with senior-level leaders from the NHS and other organisations working in the health and social care system

to companies prepared to hand over substantial sums of cash.

For a £10,000 contribution, companies could ‘support’ the conference dinner and buy ‘exclusive’ access to ‘network’ with conference delegates including

Senior executives and non-executives from primary, secondary and community providers, foundation trusts and NHS trusts, clinical commissioning groups and local government, and new national bodies such as the NHS Commissioning Board

as well as to have their branding on all communications, including invitations, menu cards and the event guide, plus the “opportunity to display promotional materials in reception areas” and a “note of thanks in opening speech”.

But for really big spenders, a donation of £30,000 bought a ‘strand sponsorship’, giving most of the above plus:

  • the opportunity to chair a session within one of the programme strands, in consultation with the conference programme team
  • two briefings for staff by an NHS Confederation director on key issues
  • branding onsite signage and ‘holding slides’ within the strand sessions, and wherever a ‘strand’ was mentioned

There were four strands at the event, including one titled “Shaping the new system“, which provided a look at how “Reforms to the NHS have significant implications for how NHS services will be commissioned, provided and regulated“, including “the most effective ways to navigate the new, more complex environment“.

Exactly what we need – NHS directors providing a ‘how-to’ guide on the most effective ways of gorging on the NHS’ innards, which the government has splayed open with its ‘reforms’, to any vulture prepared to cough up 30 grand.

But that’s not all. Benefits for ‘supporters’ of the conference extend throughout the next 12 months, too – and in a way that’s even more serious and even more deplorable. In the form of an “ongoing partnership”, at no additional cost, sponsors receive

free membership of our associate partnership scheme from April 2013 to March 2014


  • quarterly briefings with NHS Confederation policy staff
  • two meetings with director-level NHS Confederation representatives

Those benefiting from the delicacies on offer included private health company BUPA, pharmaceutical behemoth Pfizer and, bizarrely, General Electric.

As I’ve already shown, the new health regulations are a quagmire of risk and confusion for Clinical Commissioning Groups, designed to make them opt to include private providers in all NHS tenders by default.

But don’t worry. The NHS Confederation is ever so helpfully selling expert guidance in how to ‘navigate’ this swamp to best and most profitable effect to private, profit-making companies who will, as ever, expect to claw back everything they spend in addition to a hefty ‘pound of flesh’.

From the NHS – our health service, funded by our taxes. Money that could otherwise go directly into providing more and better healthcare for you, me and our loved ones.

No wonder Cameron looked botoxed on those posters promising that the NHS was ‘safe in our hands’.

He couldn’t possibly have kept a straight face otherwise.


  1. I’ve been going on about Mike Farrar and his NHS commercial lobbying firm for years Steve. Reports on Guardian Healthcare articles always quoting him and I am always remind him who and what he is. A forehead with a £sign is how I see him.

  2. The NHS Confed whilst having varying degrees of influential is still not a NHS organisation. Its a membershipngroup. Just to say.

      1. It’s not new though, sad to say, it was allowed to happen under Labour and isn’t an indication of Tory plot. It could be argued it helps their anti NHS philosophy. Another example would be for absolute donkeys years across Governments, drug companies handing out freebies to G Ps to they prescribe their drugs. I don’t like this lot one bit but this one I don’t think is down to them.

      2. Yes. The marketisation of the NHS started under New Labour. We need *now* Labour to reverse that. Fortunately, the signs are hopeful – Andy Burnham has said he’ll repeal the health act and that there was too much market in the NHS under Labour.

  3. Sickening lack of probity. “Conflict of interest” – they don’t know the meaning of the word – on either side of the fence. Yak! Yeccch! Argggh!

  4. Hear, Hear for the Lewisham legal challenge. Looks a strong set of arguments if you read the deposition. Big advantage that the CCG and GPs are strongly backing it up rather than playing silly buggers (as in some parts of the country).
    Interestingly there is an important lesson here. If you keep fighting (ie you are not going to let it drop) you can stall the process quite a lot – possibly until a more sensible policy comes along. Chase Farm Enfield A&E was due to close in 2005 but the dogfight continues – and so does the A&E!

  5. And when will the “more sensible” policy come? Step forward Mr Milliband and Mr Burnham. I SAID STEP FORWARD MR ……..!!

  6. In my memory the rot first set in back in 1984 when Thatcher commissioned the Griffiths Report (some bigwig boss from Tesco did it if I remember correctly). As a result ‘general management principles’ were imported from the US and eventually NHS Trusts came into being with their ‘internal markets’ which was supposed to make everything more efficient and cost- effective. Marketing was suddenly fashionable among top managers who I recall spent thousands on pointless corporate logos and mission statements. At the Trust I worked for it was something like ‘Striving to Care’ or some such nonsense .At the same time we were ordered to buy our ward stocks like dressings and IV giving sets from a cheaper supplier (on whose Board Tory MP John Gummer sat ) which were much poorer quality. For me it was at that point that patient care became of secondary importance for government and top management and we on the ‘shop floor’ felt we had to fight harder to maintain the standards we wanted for our patients. New Labour took things further but no government has caused so much destruction in so short a time as this despicable Coalition of Corruption.

    1. Been working for the NHS in one guise or another since 1981. The whole thing is monstrously complicated but overall I think you have it broadly right. Depressing.

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