Lister Surgicentre’s £53m buy-out: staggering 26.5x (and more) what they paid

In an article on the insanity of the supposed efficiency of NHS marketisation, which includes the government loaning or giving huge sums of money to private companies to help private NHS providers make ends meet, I mentioned that Carillion’s ‘Clinicenta’ Lister Surgicentre in Stevenage was ‘bought back’ by the NHS for £53 million.


The reason for this ‘buy-back’ was that the Lister Surgicentre had repeatedly failed Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections – and had at least 3 patients die unexpectedly (can we say ‘needlessly’, like most of the media still do about Stafford months after that was exposed as myth and even though a few published the truth?) following routine, low-risk operations. Oddly (or not), this scandal got very little airplay even though it’s real, unlike the supposed Stafford deaths.

£53m seems an incredible amount of money to buy back a private health facility that’s operating within an NHS Trust. So, on a hunch, I sent in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Department of Health (DH), asking how much Carillion paid for it in the first place.

In the course of writing this blog, I’ve had little choice but to become a hardened cynic about the motives and character of this government, especially in the way it is selling the NHS from under our noses. But the answer to my FOI request – which you can read in full here – blew my mind nonetheless:

The DH advised that it couldn’t comment on what had actually been paid, but that it could provide the contracted figures, which amounts to much the same, since a company like Carillion will surely have many ways to make sure it doesn’t pay more than it contracts for:


Clinicenta paid just over £2 million, over a period of 5 years, to run its ‘Surgicentre’ within the premises of North Herts NHS Trust.

And then the NHS – we, in other words – had to buy it back because it was, in the words of the Chief Executive of the Strategic Health Authority,

evidently substandard.

For £53m.

A staggering, unbelievable, Wonga-like return of 2,421% on what it cost them. And that’s being extremely generous (in more than one sense!), since the amounts Clinicenta has paid were basically rent for a year at a time, for which they had their benefit – and you don’t get to factor that into anything due in the ‘buy-out’. So really, they’re making £53 million on zero, or in other words an infinite rate of return.

And all this for an ‘evidently-substandard’ service that resulted in the death of at least 3 people following routine, low-risk surgery.

The DH response also provides a list of other sums included in the contract, for things like scans, tests and specialist services provided to Clinicenta by the Trust. But these items are for services already provided, so they have no bearing whatever on the amount that Clinicenta might claim it was owed for ‘selling’ back a facility that in fact it only rented for 5 years in the first place.

Could there be any clearer demonstration of the nonsense – no, insanity – of the Tories’ pavlovian insistence that the NHS is better or cheaper in private hands than public?

Or of the very idea of re-electing this bunch of bandits ever again? Nobody who gives a fig for the NHS can rationally even consider voting Tory – or Lib Dem, since they’ve completely failed to use the opportunity they had to block this government’s NHS ‘reforms’.

Cameron and co are trying to divert our attention, yet again, by talking of scroungers and a non-existent ‘something for nothing culture’ during their conference.

But it’s nothing more than the distraction a pickpocket uses while he cleans out your pockets.


  1. Who is the local MP? Maybe some local taxpayers should go visit them?

    1. Stephen McPartland, Tory. For all his fault’s being a Tory, he actually campaigned for this to be bought back under NHS control, wether he had any say in the amount paid, I don’t know. He also voted against bombing Syria.

  2. This has blown my mind – this should be in the main news on tv and on radio so that people can hear what an utter disgrace this government is!

    1. On 3 Oct 2013 15:17, “The SKWAWKBOX Blog” wrote:

      > ** > jaypot2012 commented: “This has blown my mind – this should be in the > main news on tv and on radio so that people can hear what an utter disgrace > this government is!”

  3. Reblogged this on Vox Political and commented:
    It seems that, once again, the Coalition government has got its maths badly wrong. David Cameron tells us that it is cheaper and more efficient for private companies to run NHS services. How can this be so, when the taxpayer – that’s you and I – had to buy back a privately-run centre that was “evidently substandard” for no less than 26.5 TIMES the amount the private company paid to run it in the first place?

  4. I don’t understand why they needed to “buy” it back… surely all they needed to do was say “not fit, you’re fired, get out of the building” and then bring it back inhouse, its what would happen in private industry if a sub-contractor failed, why not here?

  5. Seriously gobsmacked! But I shouldn’t be, I guess, given that all the sell-offs are just cashcows for the super-rich. I notice this hasn’t made the news – anywhere! Where’s Jermey Vine, or Paxman when you need them?

  6. I am just wondering which ‘friend’ was the recipient of all that tax-payers’ dosh! It really is appalling.

  7. This government is wasting public money enormously at the same time as it is taking money from the disabled.

  8. Those variable costs aren’t particularly variable are they. I suspect we are not getting the right info. Btw, did you see once again the lie being repeated about drinking from vases, straight from Cameron’s mouth in his Tory conference speech.

  9. If the Mid Staffs Trust TSA and it’s small team are charging £9.25m (so far!) for a plan that does not achieve it’s objectives, removes vital services from a land area of 325 sq miles and fails to command the support of more than a handful of professionals or people (ie users of the services) not only in Mid Staffs but the surrounding areas and to that extent is far worse than a plan I could have come up with on my own at the cost of a cup of tea and a cake – is that not daylight robbery too? What’s the connection to the Lister debacle? It’s the metropolitan elite having a laugh at the expense of ordinary citizens. Good night – I’m off to put my head in a bucket of water before it explodes.

  10. Once again, you’ve brilliantly exposed the real scandal of the NHS under the Tory privatisers. Thank you for doing this work, we’re all more than grateful. The whole of it stinks, but the added stench of media cooperation with these asset stripping authoritarians is over whelming. If you want to know what £53 million could be spent on, take a look at the epidemic levels of “fibromyalgia” that is afflicting people with arthritis, who are being re-diagnosed to remove them from the drugs list. (Fibro is now a recognised physical illness that is “untreatable” where as arthritis should be treated with expensive new drugs once they have exhausted the cheap drug route.) £53milliion in the drugs bill would take care of many thousands, improve quality of life. Those who have been dumped out of the rheumatology care are some of the prime targets for WCA / DWP to declare fit for work.

      1. The NRAS & other arthritis chat rooms are a start. This is a typical exchange – as it’s a very small community, this represents the tip of the iceberg.

        The fibro info site below states the fibro & arthritis are commonly found together. Most medics are still offering CBT ie psychological treatment very much in the vein of the DWP thinking about illness, and graded exercise therapy (GET) which not only have been found to be totally ineffective for fibro and CFS, but can also cause damage if applied to someone with arthritis.
        Once re-diagnosed the person is then discharged from consultant care, and left to primary care. Whereas fibro sufferers were once just treated as having psychological problems, now it is known to be an actual physical disease, the end result is the same. No treatment except GET and CBT. There was discussion on the ME site regarding academic papers on CBT and GET;

        which show that GET and CBT actually make people worse compared with doing nothing.
        I also have anecdotal evidence, not to go public with details. Locals here say they know of others here too….I can dig more up with a bit of time.

  11. Hi, I’ve just stumbled on your blog whilst doing some research for my grandmother who is absolutley outraged by this decision.

    However whilst it still stinks, it does need to be put more into context.

    The amount in your table above is just an extract of the operating costs of a part of the unit, it excludes the amount that Carillion had to spend to build and equip the facility which was in the region of £31m. The overall contract was worth approx £122m when signed.

    A fairer settlement therefore would have been to repay the building costs of say £31m and any mortgage/loan agreements that needed to be paid off. Since the staff would be tupe’d into the NHS the only redundancy would be of the senior management.

    So it still stinks, but not as much as you originally thought.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: