Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Key Member of NHS Future Forum Colluded with Lobby Group over Competition


Sir Stephen bubb
The Head of a voluntary association who was a key member of the Future NHS Forum during the government’s ‘pause’, colluded with a private healthcare lobby group to agree a message, promoting the benefits of competition in the Health and Social Care bill, a newly discovered document has revealed.

When the government decided to take a ‘pause’ in response to the increasing resistance to the Health and Social Care bill being rushed through parliament, the Department of Health set up the NHS Future Forum to front the so-called ‘listening’ exercise. The participants in the forum, were made up of individuals from across the NHS spectrum, without private sector inclusion, however, a certain Sir Stephen Bubb, was appointed by David Cameron as chair of the group on choice and competition.

Sir Stephen Bubb is head of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), which had been campaigning for a bigger role for the voluntary sector in the public services, a key part of Conservative party’s ‘Big Society’, mantra. Mr Bubb, had according to the newly released book by Nicholas Timmins ‘Never Again?’ - been in touch with Andrew Lansley before the ‘pause’, to see what could be done to promote the idea of ‘voluntary sector providers in the reforms’

His appointment according to the Timmins book, was requested by Health minister Simon Burns, who asked him to ‘chair the competition work group.’ The eventual clearance for his position came from No10, which was presumed to be David Cameron. His appointment was canny, because the private sector were unable to get into the forum as members and Mr Bubb’s role for increasing the voluntary sector’s involvement in the ‘choice’ process, crossed over with the same desire’s of the private sector. His involvement as pro-competition spokesman did indeed go far beyond the voluntary sector he represented. The newly discovered document handed to Social investigations, reveals his collusion with the director of the trade and lobby group, the NHS Partners Network, which took the form of an agreed set of tactics.

The document titled: NHS Partners' Network: Director's update on the NHS Reforms was produced on the 20th May 2011, just as the ‘listening exercise’ was coming to a close. The document was written to bring together the various lobbying processes that had taken place throughout the period and was meant for members eyes only. Under the title ‘in terms of direct discussion’, David Worskett the director of the network informs us of how, early on in the pause, he had one ‘lengthy’ discussion with Sir Stephen Bubb at which ‘we agreed on the approach he would take, what the key issues are, and how to handle the politics.’ He has, he concluded, ‘not deviated from this for a moment throughout the period.’ The listening exercise it seems was fully underway.  

This damning statement, confirms what Mr Worskett said, as revealed in Mr Timmins book that ‘throughout the forums deliberations, Bubb was “our only real route in”. He “fought valiantly to ensure that an element of competition remained in the system”, resulting in what David Worskett saw as a “pretty pro competition…and that was mostly, though not entirely down to Steve Bubb.”  

Indeed, not only did Mr Worskett get through to Mr Bubb, but so too did other members of the network. According to the second bullet point of direct discussions, ‘a number of members secured individual meetings with him, thus reinforcing and validating the messages.’ Not content with this, a second ‘lengthy meeting took place in May 2011, a week before the network document was written, which took place under the ‘auspices of "Reform"’, the right-wing think tank, according to the update. The discussion involved other ‘all like-minded’ people and included ‘David Bennett’, the chair of Monitor, the industry regulator, who he claimed had also ‘consistently taken ‘the same line throughout.’ 

The connection to Reform is important. The deputy director of the right wing think tank, Nick Seddon is connected to an orchestration of the Telegraph's editorial by Mr Worksett, according to the document, promoting the benefits of competition. The story of the Telegraph's involvement is explored here...


Mr Bubb and Mr Seddon are both on very good terms, as revealed in a post written by Sir Stephen Bubb on his blog a week before the official launch of the NHS Future Forum on the 31st of March 2011.

He gushes: ‘So a somewhat bleary eyed early morning start to get to Canary Wharf for a big Reform conference on the Big Society. I was on the opening panel, chaired by my favourite think tank leader, Nick Seddon.’ It wasn't always like this. Back in 2008, Mr Bubb was talking a very different tune about Mr Seddon writing: 'I see that Nick Seddon , the journalist who I chastised recently has been at it again...He apparently thinks that all the bosses of the top charities form a champagne quaffing elite whose views are only of "incidental interest " or even " objects of scorn"...I'm having lunch with Mr Seddon soon . But he gets no champagne...'

Stephen Bubb's ability to get the 'agreed' message across was appreciated by Mr Worskett who concluded: ‘…the arguments in favour of choice, competition, plurality and economic regulation put forward by the small handful of like-minded members ably led by Sir Stephen Bubb have often carried the day and won more support than we might have expected.’ By all accounts the lobby group have achieved what they said they had in their 2010/11 Annual Summary, which stated: 'Following the UK general election 2010, our main areas of activity have included: influencing the development of the NHS reforms.'

The NHS Partners Network have not finished there, having recently submitted their paper in a review
set up by Andrew Lansley to look into whether healthcare providers are able to fully participate in providing NHS services. 

In their submission, the partner network complained that local NHS organisations are using ‘local or known organisations, rather than considering the opportunity to develop new relationships’, and that the’ structure and decision making systems are not inclusive of all providers on an equal basis.’

Heading the review is David Bennett, who attended the ‘lengthy’ meeting of 'like-minded' people, with Sir Stephen Bubb. Mr Bennett has previously and predominantly worked for global consultancy company Mckinsey & Co as a director, and without any previous experience in government, became the Chief policy Officer to Tony Blair. McKinsey & Co, were responsible for many proposals drawn up in the health and Social Care bill and despite leaving the company 8 years ago, his communication with the company hasn’t stopped.

Researcher of Green Benches blog Dr
Éoin Clarke, obtained letters between Mr Bennett and Nicholaus Henke of McKinsey & Co, using the Freedom of Information Act. The correspondence revealed a cosy discussion between McKinsey & Co and the Department of Health (DoH) suggesting an informal meeting to discuss the passage and implementation of the NHS bill. In addition, Mr Bennett felt it perfectly acceptable to receive hospitality from McKinsey & Co in June 2011, just after the listening exercise had finished, where he flew business class to New York, stayed at a five-star hotel and attended a lavish banquet. Not very becoming of the head of a regulatory body of our NHS.

Naturally, the government and their apparatchiks will dismiss any consideration of bias under the marketing speak of ‘promoting the ‘interests of patients’, and ‘choice.’ However, one quote made by David Bennett in an interview with the Times and highlighted in Nicholas Timmins book reveals just how bias the head of the ‘independent’ review will be. “We did it in gas, we did it in power, we did it in telecoms. We’ve done it in rails; we’ve done it in water. So there is actually 20 years experience of taking monopolistic markets and providers and exposing them to economic regulation.”

Of course this could read, there has been 20 years of handing over public resources into private hands raising the cost of living for the consumer and increasing subsidisation for the taxpayer, it just depends if you see the world through ideologue or economic fact. Indeed Mr Bennett was involved in the process that led to the decision process to set 49% of hospital income from private sources. How can a man with such clear bias be the head of Monitor, and a review process which will be making changes that will place private companies on an ‘equal’ footing with other NHS providers. The answer is it won’t, and his position as head of Monitor is just another piece in the jigsaw of handing the NHS over to private companies, one which Stephen Bubb has played a key role. 


At least we can be rest assured no decisions were agreed upon until the Forum's report was signed off. Ah wait a minute!

On the the 7th of June, Bubb wrote once more on his blog. This time revealing this extraordinary revelation: ‘just as I was signing off our Panel's report on " Delivering real choice" I get sent a copy of the PM speech announcing he is accepting many of our key recommendations  although we haven't actually given him the report yet!)’ He continued: ‘I am unclear why he thought it was a good idea to pre announce acceptance of much of our Report, but it is welcome.’

Do you think Stephen Bubb and David Bennett resign?

Note to editors: The NHS Partners Network membership largely consists of private healthcare companies, who are well connected to our parliamentarians. Six of their members have direct financial links to MPs, former MPs, and Lords providing a well-connected source to parliament. These include Circle who have Conservative MP Mark Simmonds on their team as a strategic advisor, who also acts as Vice Chair on the Associate Health Group. Care UK, whose Chairman John Nash donated £21,000 to run Andrew Lansley’s office when he was shadow health secretary, and Barchester Health, who have Baroness Ford as their chairman and Mike Parsons as their Chief Executive, who was voted the 2nd most influential person in healthcare by the influential healthcare magazine ‘HealthInvestor’ members in their top 'Power Fifty' awards.
For a full list of our parliamentarians connections to private healthcare: http://socialinvestigations.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/nhs-privatisation-compilation-of.html

To see the original document please email: [email protected]

Incidentally - Bubb wrote in Febraury 2012: 'Tesco have their premier cru on offer for half price. It's a great dry champagne and at a very reasonable price , such that even a third sector CEO could get one!' It seems Seddon was right first time around. No wonder they are are now friends.

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