Showing posts with label 'Circle health'. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 'Circle health'. Show all posts

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Healthcare UK: A Conduit for Market expansion? Part one of a Two Part Report

Healthcare UK was set up in order to sell NHS expertise abroad, but following a series of Freedom of Information requests, Social Investigations can reveal that far from benefitting the NHS, 80 per cent of all contracts gained through Healthcare UK have ended up in private hands.

Memoranda of Understandings made between China and the UK show that in exchange for financial support for UK companies from Chinese investment, the government has promised to provide information on UK health ‘policy’ and offer China’s main financial investment arm access to ‘confidential’ information.

The vast majority of corporations involved in the international agreements are kept hidden through commercial confidentiality but enough evidence has emerged to show how Healthcare UK acts as a conduit for commercial companies in a bid to expand the ‘domestic market’ here in the UK as well as increasing the market abroad.

This is Healthcare UK, unlocking deals for UK companies, some of who are based in tax havens and whose investors have donated to the Conservative party. All in the name of the NHS.

“Good news for the NHS”
The original idea of exporting UK health expertise began under the Labour government, and took place towards the very end of their tenure. The intent behind this project according to then Health Secretary Andy Burnham, was to tap into the “exceptional knowledge and intelligence within the NHS” with “investment of taxpayers’ money and funds raised going straight back into (the) NHS.” In addition the Labour government wanted to generate ‘demand in international markets’ and broker ‘partnerships’ of an unspecified nature.

By the time Labour had lost the election, NHS Global as it was then known, had failed to gain any
contracts for the NHS or anyone else through the programme. This lack of interest didn’t deter the coalition, who continued the project with a similar message that selling the NHS abroad was “good news for patients” and the NHS.

In the coalition’s 2011 ‘Plan for Budget Growth’ the government provided a snippet of detail beyond the sound bites that had hitherto emerged (though not much), of what activity would take place abroad.

The Government’ it said, ‘will establish a proactive, entrepreneurial NHS Global to make the most of the NHS brand internationally and to offer support and advice to NHS trusts…act as a point of contact for NHS organisations’ to create ‘international customers’ and ‘international opportunities.’ Furthermore, the new NHS Global would ‘represent the interests of the NHS and allow the NHS to shape the final business model.’

The programme was eventually named Healthcare UK, a joint initiative between the Department of Health, the newly formed NHS England and UK Trade and Investment. Not long after its launch, Health Minister Anne Milton saidThis is good news for NHS patients, who will get better services at their local hospital as a result of the work the NHS is doing abroad and the extra investment that will generate”.
Yet despite these claims, a freedom of information request revealed that just 2 out of 21 contracts obtained through Healthcare UK have gone to ‘public’ organisations, with the vast bulk of 17 ending up in the hands of private companies worth over £281 million.

The beneficiaries
Records of individual contracts won through Healthcare UK, that resulted in an export or non-export deal are termed “business wins”. Information provided to Healthcare UK on these “business wins”, is considered by UK Trade and Investment of which Healthcare UK is a part, to be ‘commercially confidential’ and therefore hidden from pubic view.

According to a Department of Health spokesperson, there is no “such public interest in favour of disclosure…Any unauthorised disclosure of commercially confidential information would be detrimental to companies and would give rise to an actionable breach of confidence…there is a strong public interest in maintaining the confidence in order to secure successful outcomes for British businesses and the attendant economic improvements for the country.” In other words corporate success is more important than the public’s right to know.

Concern over what contracts are being gained and what commercial companies are benefitting is heightened by the fact that Serco, who are under investigation by the Serious Fraud Squad, sit on the Healthcare UK board.

This block on information also prevents us knowing who the two ‘public’ organisations are, listed as having won contracts worth £251,000. Are they NHS organisations or not?

Rather confusingly, a further information request directed at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (DBIS), said NHS organisations have achieved “£45 million of business wins” through support from Healthcare UK. However, as the DBIS admitted, they do not keep records of revenue generated by NHS institutions through Healthcare UK, or whether those institutions were already exporting their expertise prior to the existence of Healthcare UK. It would appear; the Department of Health, Healthcare UK and UK Trade and Investment don’t know what one another are doing or saying.

One NHS organisation that has expanded abroad is The Leeds Teaching Hospitals, who signed a MOU with the King Hussein Cancer Centre of Jordan in 2013. Whether this agreement is part of the NHS "business wins" is not certain because Healthcare UK has blocked the information. In keeping with the general secrecy surrounding these deals, the Leeds Teaching Hospitals also cited “commercial interests” for refusing to answer what costs were involved in running the MOU with Jordan and or any revenue that may have been gained. In echoes of the response from the Department of Health, a spokesperson for the Teaching Hospitals said withholding of this information was more in the “public interest” than any “accountability, transparency, and financial probity”.

Those that we know
When Earl Howe was questioned on Healthcare UK in the House of Lords, he said, the new trade arm, which has an annual cost of £3 million to run, would not “just apply to a few elite organisations.”

Despite most companies preferring anonymity, a few companies have given permission for their names to be public and it would appear the elite are well and truly present.

One successful company in a Chinese deal, is accountancy giant KPMG, who have signed up as a business consultant for
a ‘high-end private hospital project’ in Beijing. They will work alongside multinational contractor Arup, who will design the building.

Another beneficiary of Healthcare’s global expansion is Circle Partnership, whose background and presence in the highest echelons of government, highlights exactly why those gaining contracts must be made public.

Circle are part-funded by Odey Management Ltd, who are
based in the low tax jurisdiction of the Cayman Islands. One of the main shareholders is Robin Odey who has given £251,000 to the Conservative party. Circle’s former employees Nick Seddon and Christina Robinson work in the No10 Health policy unit and as a special adviser to Jeremy Hunt respectively. It would appear that moving from a private health company into the power base of government is a natural career path these days.

Further parliamentary connections to Circle include Conservative peer
Baron Higgins of Worthing, who holds in excess of £50,000 worth of shares in Lansdowne UK Equity Fund, another investor in Circle. In case that isn’t concerning enough, Circle Holdings, the controlling body of Circle, is based in the low tax jurisdiction of Jersey; quite how that benefits the NHS and its patients is unclear.

Circle’s involvement?
Circle’s involvement in China is connected to CITIC Trust Co, part of China’s main investment group. In a government press release at the end of last year it said, Healthcare UK has “signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the CITIC Trust and Circle Partnership to unlock commercial deals for UK companies in areas such as primary care services, to provide integrated care and education and training.” In addition, according to their website, Circle will help developintegrated healthcare services for elderly patients’ and act as an adviser on ‘clinical’ matters.

Yet, despite the government trumpeting Circle Partnership’s involvement, Healthcare UK apparently has no idea what Circle is actually doing in China.

In response to a request on Circle’s involvement in Healthcare UK and what information they may be privy to, the government said, “We are not aware of any contract between CITIC and Circle to perform this function (of unlocking deals) and within the CITIC-Healthcare UK MOU no individual company is identified to carry out this function.”

What is known, is that Conservative MP Ken Clarke, who recently resigned from his post as the Minister without portfolio, met with Paolo Pieri, CFO and Tom Muir, the Director of Communications of Circle Partnership in June last year. According to the Cabinet Office, “They discussed the Healthcare UK priority markets of China, the Middle East and Brazil, with a focus on forthcoming events and trade missions…Circle outlined their overseas interests”. It sounds highly improbable that they do not know Circle’s role is in China.

Moreover, if so many contracts are landing in the hands of private companies, how can Healthcare UK claim to be for the benefit of the NHS? After all this was the justification given for selling the ‘NHS brand’ abroad and based on Circle’s role of unlocking ‘commercial deals for UK companies’, it would seem the NHS won’t get a look in.

If the NHS is not benefiting, then who is and in what way? 

Go to part two here.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Welcome to the House of Circle

Nick Seddon formerly of Circle
The recent speech by the government plant in the Care Quality Commission, David Prior, has called for NHS Trusts who have fallen into financial difficulty to be taken over by European or American ‘Hospital Chains’. 

Such a move would present new opportunities to Circle Health, the first company to takeover the running of a NHS hospital and a company that is embedded into the highest areas of government influence. Not only is a former  Circle employee writing the health policy for No10, but another of their former staff is health adviser to Jeremy Hunt. If you add the donations ending up in the local office of the policy unit head, then you could say No10 is now the House of Circle.

A secret plan to hand over NHS hospitals to foreign companies was initially exposed by the transparency campaigners, Spinwatch in 2011. A Freedom of Information release unearthed communications between management consultancy firm McKinsey and the Department of Health, which revealed how over 20 NHS hospitals should be taken over by foreign firms. This process should be done with a “mindset of one at a time…because of various political constraints associated with privatisation.”

In David Prior’s speech made at a health seminar in London last week, the former Conservative Chief Executive cited the private hospital company, Circle, who took over the running of Hitchingbrooke hospital back in 2011, as being a model that could be followed for such a process.

This sentiment was one that was shared by fellow Conservative MP Mark Simmonds who landed his role as strategic adviser to Circle in December 2010. This new position was taken up just five months after he had finished his role as Shadow Health Secretary. The blog ‘NHS Vault’ revealed that within a report written by the Hitchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust Chief Executive's & Franchise Representatives, Simmonds visited the hospital in July 2012 and told those in attendance, “In this hospital you can change the way the NHS works, in my view for the better, you are at the frontier of the way healthcare is going to be provided in the future.”

The support of Circle within government is also supported by their presence in the heart of government policy. Nick Seddon, is a former Head of Communications for Circle, who moved to the free market think tank Reform as deputy director. Reform are heavily funded by private healthcare, which includes private hospital groups.

Whilst at Reform, Seddon was highly active lobbying alongside private healthcare to ensure competition remained int he Health and Social care bill. In addition, he called for an increase in private companies taking over NHS hospitals, which was part of a campaign by Reform backed by the Telegraph who helped promote Circle's model.  David Cameron, who had said lobbying would be the 'next big scandal' decided to hand a healthcare lobbyist a role in the health policy unit at No10.

This is not the only influence Circle have in the echelons of government health policy. Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt chose to hire Christina Robinson, another former Head of Communications at Circle as his special adviser.

The direction of where health policy is going couldn’t be clearer, but it isn’t just there where Circle has representation in government policy. Conservative MP for Orpington Jo Johnson, was made head of the No10 Policy unit leading up until the next general election. His constituency office received £6,000 just after the election, in July 2010, from Robin Crispin Odey a major investor in Circle.

Robin Odey, whose asset management company is based in the tax haven of the Cayman Islands has given the Conservative party £251,000 – some of which has ended up in local constituencies.

Incidentally, all the MPs listed below who have been in receipt of donations from Mr Odey, were able to vote on the recent amendment to the Care bill that allows Jeremy Hunt to close or downgrade hospitals.

As if this wasn’t enough, Conservative peer Baron Higgins of Worthing holds in excess of £50,000 worth of shares in Lansdowne UK Equity Fund, another investor in Circle.

The House of Commons or rather, Circle and their external plants in organisations like the CQC are now calling for more private hospitals to be handed out to foreign companies. Circle will be delighted to hear such news, who currently remain in the running for another takeover of a NHS hospital in Nuneaton alongside Care UK.

The government (House of Circle) treats the electorate with contempt and here is why.

They plan policy in secret with management consultancy companies who themselves have private healthcare clients and with whom they share information.

Corporate lobby groups such as Reform, who help write their policy, are masquerading as charitable think tanks to push policy that opens revenues for their corporate backers.

Cameron choose to hire a corporate lobbyist into his policy unit.

The rules are not fit for purpose
MPs who through their constituency offices are in receipt of money from an investor in Circle, and were allowed to vote on a clause that will allow the closure and downgrading of NHS hospitals.

The MPs who have received funds from Robin Crispin Odey and voted on Clause 119 - the hospital closure clause: Source - Electoral Commission

GRAHAM, Richard, Mr - Gloucester - His constituency office received £3,000 from Circle investor, Mr Robin Crispin Odey on 03/12/2007. Richard Graham was elected MP for Gloucester at the last general election and like Odey has previously worked for Barings bank, which went bust in 1995. Vote on Clause 119.

HARPER, Mark, Mr - Forest of dean: Electoral commission records show his constituency office received £5,000 on 09/02/2010 from Circle investor Mr Robin Crispin Odey just 3 months before the general election. Vote on Clause 119.

JOHNSON, Joseph - Orpington. According to the electoral Commission - the brother of Boris Johnson's constituency office received £6,000 on 19th July 2010, to his constituency office from Robin Crispin Odey an investor in circle who run Hitchingbrooke hospital. He now sits in the No10 policy adviser unit. Vote on Clause 119.

KWARTENG, Kwasi, Mr - Worked for Odey Asset Management hedge fund as an analyst who invest in Circle health who run the Hitchingbrooke hospital. The hedge fund is run by Robin Crispin William Odey who has donated to the Conservative party since 2007. Mr Kwateng's constituency office received £10,000 from Odey Asset Management on 12th September 2011 for consultancy work for political advice to asset managers, which included ‘domestic affairs’. Vote on Clause 119.
NORMAN, Jesse, Mr - Hereford and South Herefordshire. According to the Electoral Commission, Mr Norman's office received £5,000 on 30th June 2009 from Circle healthcare investor Crispin Odey to his local Hereford constituency. Vote on Clause 119.

REES-MOGG, Jacob, Mr - MP for North-East Somerset - According to the electoral Commission, his office received £2,000 to his constituency office on the 14th April, 2010 from Mr Robin Crispin Odey, a hedge funder who has invested in Circle healthcare. Vote on Clause 119.

SOAMES, Nicholas, Hon - According to the electoral Commission, his office received £2,000 on 11th May 2010, from Crispin Odey who is an investor of Circle Health. Vote for Clause 119.

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Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Reform – who do they represent? BMI healthcare

As part of an ongoing analysis of Reform as a ‘charity’, this time the focus is on BMI healthcare.

Articles in relation to Reform already exist here on the meetings with senior officials using Chatham House rules which are an affront to transparency. Another article looked at their role in supporting the aims of Aviva, one of their corporate partners. This time the focus is turned to BMI Healthcare.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Telegraph: Pushing Circle’s Agenda

Hitchingbrooke Hospital
If we are to believe the content of the Daily Telegraph’s recent editorial, titled ‘Hope for the NHS’*, then we can all breathe a sigh of relief, pack up your placards, the NHS it would appear, is saved. At least that’s the message being propagated in an extraordinary campaign being run by a so-called ‘quality paper’ on behalf of Circle Health.