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,
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.