Category Archives: REFORM

The myth of the “Independent Report” or how the Tories are weaving threads of private interest into the very fabric of our country.

images (1)We’ve heard this week of yet another scandal in the NHS with the release of the Grant Thornton Report into the Maternity Unit at Furness General Hospital and the failings of the Care Quality Commission. I first heard the news of this in the early morning of yesterday on the BBC 24 hour news channel. I was struck by the repeated emphasis the BBC put on the independence of the report. They didn’t mention who had produced the report at that time but simply dubbed it, in large letters on the screen, INDEPENDENT REPORT. So striking was this emphasis that it immediately aroused my suspicions and a quick check on the Guardian website revealed just who had carried out the investigation – the UK arm of an international company called Grant Thornton LLP. So I decided to investigate just who these people were.

images (6)  On their website ( http://www.grant-thornton.co.uk/ ) they describe themselves as ‘one of the leading organisations of independent assurance, tax and advisory firms’ and strive to help businesses to discover ‘how to do things better, smarter, faster to achieve business growth and maximise wealth’. They ‘have partnered with the Daily Telegraph on an editorial & event series that examines how the most dynamic companies are achieving growth today; how are they capitalising on opportunities, and knocking through the barriers.’ In their latest Transparency Report pubished on their website they say that ‘at 30 June 2012, the firm employed 3,934 people (2011: 3,692), and currently provides client services from 23 locations throughout the United Kingdom. In addition, they have branch offices in the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands. My interest was definitely piqued by now, so I kept looking…

images (3)It didn’t take me long to discover that back in August 2010 Grant Thornton offered the Conservative Party the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of pounds in cash and non-cash donations such as staff secondments and consultancy services. 

Not long after taking office the Coalition decided to abolish the Audit Commission and The Observer reported:-

“The government’s decision to close down the Audit Commission, the public spending quango, is likely to benefit a number of companies that have donated large amounts to the Conservative party. Accountancy giants such as KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and Grant Thornton have offered the party the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of pounds in cash and non-cash donations such as staff secondments and consultancy services. A government spokesman said it was “incorrect and malicious” to suggest that the major auditors will benefit from the closure of the quango – saying ministers hoped that “100 different” companies will win contracts. But critics point out all the companies have large public-sector audit departments and would be likely to put forward extremely strong bids. They also make up four out of five companies named on the Audit Commission’s website as already carrying out 30% of its public-sector audits.”

So it looks like the Coalition government dissolved a public body who audited public sector organisations very soon after the election providing more potential business for the big private auditors mentioned above and these guys hand over a significant financial reward  – but only to one party in the Coalition. I’m not suggesting they should have shared their largesse equally between the two coalition parties by saying that but pointing out that on top of the significance of rewarding a political party at this time, this also strongly suggests they have some friends in the Conservative party they want to keep onside.

Now we’ve all seen Margaret Hodge recently denouncing publicly and loudly about how KPMG have been allowed to be involved in government policy making on tax avoidance issues when they could soon be advising their wealthy clients how to get round the new regulations. The government obviously didn’t see any conflict of interest here or they wouldn’t have invited KPMG to consult on these matters. But then from a Conservative viewpoint, at least, their interests are definitely not conflicted by this.

I decided this needed further investigation so I did a bit of digging into the main players at Grant Thornton…and what I found was very interesting indeed.

images (7)Here we see Scott Barnes CEO of Grant Thornton being interviewed on CNBC TV about the economic opportunities afforded by the London Olympics. He also regularly blogs on a government website called ‘Great Business’

http://www.greatbusiness.gov.uk/2013/06/14/ten-tips-for-small-businesses-and-entrepreneurs-to-get-ahead/

download (1)He also writes regularly in the Torygraph and has set up a Grant Thornton ‘microsite’ under the banner of ‘unlocking the growth agenda’. He boasts on the company’s main website that:-

“We have partnered with the Daily Telegraph on an editorial & event series that examines how the most dynamic companies are achieving growth today; how are they capitalising on opportunities, and knocking through the barriers.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/business/grant-thornton/

I showed in a previous post how the Telegraph has gone out of its way to allow its editorial agenda to be commandeered by private healthcare vested interests –

http://wp.me/p3mYc5-42

download (1)Next up is Ed Warner OBE perhaps better known as the head honcho at UK Athletics and thus heavily involved in last year’s London Olympics. Ed is on Grant Thornton’s board but even more interesting is the fact that he’s Chair of Panmure Gordon, the investment bankers where David Cameron’s father made his fortune.

download One of the recent clients of Panmure Gordon is the pharmaceutical company based in Oxford,e-Therapeutics, who are currently working on a new cancer drug and a new drug for depression – both potential money spinners.

DavidCameron_eTherapeutics They recently invested in a new drug discovery centre in Oxford which was officially opened by none other than David Cameron.

Warner is also  Chairman of the IPC Athletics Sport Technical Committee  and was recently appointed as head of the Organising Committee for the 2017 International Association of Athletics Federations Championships (IAAF) World Championships in London by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) when it was still the remit of Jeremy Hunt, and the Mayor of London’s office. Boris Johnson personally vouched for him.

Obviously Ed is well connected with some top Conservatives.

download (3) The claim that Grant Thornton are an ‘independent’ disinterested outfit is even more discredited when you take into account that they have a large portfolio of clients in the private healthcare sector. Their website says it all:-

“In the private sector, our clients range from providers of primary and secondary care to private equity houses, care home providers and pharmaceutical and equipment suppliers. We focus on solutions. Our team is made up of highly experienced professionals who have a thorough understanding of the dynamics of the healthcare sector and who recognise that our clients require our service to be delivered on time and on budget. We pride ourselves on listening to our clients, working in an open and flexible manner and developing innovative, bespoke solutions. We were announced ‘Health Investor Accountant of the Year’ in 2009 and 2010 in recognition of our seamless range of services for a variety of high profile assignments across all parts of the healthcare sector. Our commitment to the sector is demonstrated by the pro bono work that our professionals undertake, serving on the boards of Foundation Trusts, Department of Health working parties and mentoring projects for civil servants. In addition, we regularly speak at leading healthcare conferences and contribute to industry journals.”

In 2011 they produced a different kind of report entitled ‘Healthcare: The Finance Flow: Is it moving?’ in which they describe a survey of “200 CEOs and CFOs of UK businesses with turnovers in the £25-250 million range” in order to discover how confident they felt about their business opportunities in the UK health sector. They asked the question,

“Are you planning to undertake a significant transaction in the coming 12 months?”

73% of the 200 big companies surveyed said “yes”.

This is what our government claim is an ‘independent’ organisation. They seem to be rewriting the dictionary.

download (4)Now we need to turn our attention to the CQC and in particular to its newly appointed CEO, David Prior because this is where the plot thickens. Prior was appointed as CEO on 28th January this year after the resignation of Jo Williams and in the midst of the current scandal. He earns £63K for 2 to 3 days work a week.

CQC-David-PriorDavid Prior is a former Conservative MP (Norwich) who was also the Chief Executive of the Conservative Party. He was the government’s ‘preferred candidate’ for the job, a fact that the Guardian said, last December, was ’cause for concern’.Peter Beresford, a professor of social policy at Brunel University wrote in the Guardian:-

“Unfortunately, whatever helpful skills and experience Prior has, for example, in his role as chair of Norfolk and Norwich University hospitals foundation trust, these are likely to be undermined by his close history with the leading party in the coalition. More thought and independence of mind must be shown in making this decision than were evident in the earlier decisions regarding top appointments to the commission.”

What Professor Beresford doesn’t say is that back in 2007, when Prior was also the non-executive chairman of the private healthcare company Chancellor Care which owned Cawston Park, a private mental hospital, he was arrested, along with other board members, on allegations of defrauded the NHS of £2.3 million. He was later cleared of the charge and Chancellor Care was bought out by the Jeesal Group who provide private mental health care.

images (8)From the moment he stepped into the job at the CQC Prior has been calling for hospital closures and criticising the state of A&E’s – in other words this head of a so-called politically independent watchdog has been publicly peddling the Tory agenda of privatisation.

According to The Slog blog, an excellent source for a comprehensive timeline of NHS privatisation :-

“Mr Prior is calling for large-scale closures of hospital beds, and a massive diversion of investment monies into community care. Unfortunately, the Lansley-Hunt axis of madness privatised most of the Primary Care sector, which they have handed over to a combo of Dave’s mate Sir Richard Branson and go-getting GP entrepreneurs on £250,000 a year and no after-hours working, thank you very much.”

http://hat4uk.wordpress.com/tag/cqc-david-prior/

newslogo_nhePrior spoke at a conference hosted by health think tank the King’s Fund this May which was reported on the NHE website. He said too many patients were arriving in hospital as emergencies, when they could have been helped earlier:-

“If we don’t start closing acute beds, the system is going to fall over. Emergency admissions through Accident & Emergency (A&E) are out of control in large parts of the country … That is totally unsustainable”

He claimed that the CQC has identified 45 hospitals with sustained problems over the past five years, which have been set as a priority for inspection. A further 20% of hospitals are “coasting along”,

And he continues to sound even more like the SoS for Health when he says:-

“I think primary care is in bad shape. I think GPs ought to be responsible 24/7 – they should never have opted out from out of hours care.”

0_0_393_http-__offlinehbpl.hbpl.co.uk_News_PG_89708F60-BFC9-851D-3EF48E898E5E2E69Robert Francis QC  who was responsible for the report of the inquiry into the Mid Staffs NHS Foundation Trust has implied that in the future the CQC ought to merge with Monitor, who are the economic regulator set up to promote effective and efficient providers of health and care, to promote competition, regulate prices and safeguard the continuity of services. Whilst Monitor is a public body serious questions have been raised by Social Investigations about its CEO, David Bennett.

1261266_bennett-davidSocial Investigations found an internal memo written by NHSPN director, David Worskett which reveals both he and Monitor chief, David Bennett met during the Health bill ‘pause’ under the auspices of free market think tank, Reform. NHSPN is a consortium of private healthcare providers. The document was an update informing the groups members on the lobbying that had taken place during the so-called ‘listening exercise’. Mr Worksett informs his members how: ‘I had a second lengthy meeting…under the auspices of “Reform”, with only a handful of other (all like-minded) people present, including David Bennett, the chair of Monitor. He has also consistently taken the same line as us throughout.’

David Bennett’s bias was also brought into question previously when a FOI revealed an email from an unnamed McKinsey executive from May 2010, suggesting it was planning to exploit its privileged access to government. It stated: “We have been gathering our thinking on the implications of the new Government programme for the NHS (and) have started to share this with clients. Would you like to meet to discuss it?” The recipient of the email was David Bennett.

David Bennett was a former senior partner at McKinsey & Co, the architects of the £20bn savings that are being justified to sell off large chunks of the NHS.

nhs-plcIf the government were so eager to close down the Audit Commission almost as soon as they took over in 2010,paving the way for private auditors to make profit from public money, then its not inconceivable that they would merge the CQC with Monitor. Since both David Prior of the CQC and David Bennett of Monitor seem ‘on message’ with the privatisation agenda, whatever watchdog emerged would be likely to embrace a culture of private healthcare. A culture that put profit before patients.

It seems to me that the Conservative Party is effectively operating as a PR Department for big business simply there to sell their projects to us; and as such the democratic process is dead. These are people who WE employ to represent us, who are paid at least three times the average wage for that privilege.

On the BBC’s ‘advert’ for the Parliament channel David Cameron can be heard shouting self-righteously:-

“I know where I stand, I know where this Party stands, and that’s in the national interest!”

No you don’t David. You and your Party exist entirely to cater to the multinational interest.

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REFORM: The ‘independent’ Think Tank that wants us to think its a charity that drives the thinking behind NHS privatisation – backed by over THIRTY multinational corporations.

ATIVE

_64124769_64124768   COMING SOON: JEREMY AND FRIENDS

 circleweb download (2)                                          download (3)                download (4)download (5)download (6)download (7)images (1)

Reform Research Trust – Charity Number: 1103739 – has been reported to the Charities Commission by Andrew Robertson, the investigative journalist behind Social Investigations, an organisation that specialises in in-depth research into political matters of social interest.

download      Reform is a free market think tank, whose mission according to their website, is to ‘set out a better way to deliver public services and economic prosperity.’ They are also an official charity, although, as Robertson demonstrates, not in the traditional sense. The Oxford English Dictionary describes a charity as ‘an organisation set up to provide help and raise money for those in need’  and according to the Charity Commission ‘the guiding principal of charity law is that charities should be, and be seen to be, independent from party politics.’ Robertson’s in-depth investigation of Reform has found that their power base rests almost entirely with the Conservative party. He says that Reform’s claim to independence is based on having one Liberal Democrat (Jeremy Browne) and two Labour members (Lord Warner and MP Frank Field) and a Conservative MP, (Julian Smith) on their advisory team. These however do not represent the overall dominance of the organisation towards the Conservative party, which can be seen by the power base of the founders and trustees and Reform doesn’t exist to give a voice to the voiceless, but is acting rather to leverage money from the public sector into the hands of the corporations, some of which just happen to be partners of the Reform ‘charity’.

images (3) All of the co-founders have links to the Conservative party.

  • Reform is recognised as part of the Conservative party movement by Conservativehome.
  • Two MPs to emerge from Reform both belong to the Conservative party
  • Two of the trustees have provided money to individuals in the Conservative party
  • Two of the trustees and a director have advised two Conservative MPs
  • Andrew Haldenby, Nick Herbert and Patrick Barbour who set up Reform Research Trust in 2002 all have links to the Conservative party.

reportIn 2009, just before the last election, Reform produced a report “The end of entitlement” in which they advocated a strong case for ending welfare entitlement for the middle classes. More chillingly though they also urge the future government to undertake a radical privatisation programme of public services singling out the NHS for the biggest hit of all. On welfare benefits they suggest:

“Where possible, replace social security benefits with private provision, with private insurance being a potentially useful but largely underutilised tool, particularly for disability but also in other areas.”

And on the NHS:-

“The closure of hospital services, in most cases due to a redesign of service provision, will be one of the best ways for the NHS to reduce activities and control costs….Commit to greater plurality in supply and reverse the “NHS preferred provider” policy. The ability of competition to drive better standards and productivity growth is crucial for ensuring that spending reductions do not lead to “salami slicing cuts” and a decline in quality…Only 3 per cent of the NHS budget is spent by private sector health providers, while a third of hospitals in France and Switzerland and a half of hospitals in Germany are privately run.”

And:-

“No ring fence for the health budget.The vast majority of expenditure is directed on the front line and this is where costs must be saved. Public sector pay and conditions should reflect public finances and performance. Abolish national pay bargaining
Reduce pay for doctors and senior managers by 10 per cent”

Remember, this was written before the election by an outfit with strong links to the Tories and sponsored by, among others, some of the biggest companies in the private healthcare business. Nearly all of this advice has been adopted already, some of it admitted to but some of it repeatedly denied by Cameron and crew. Witness for instance Cameron’s most recent lies in parliament when he claimed on three occasions that government were spending £12.7 billion extra on the NHS.(http://skwalker1964.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/smith-shapps-now-cameron-lies-to-parliament-on-nhs-stats/)

imagesAndrew Robertson discovered the extent and reach of the ‘invisible hand’ of corporate capitalism behind Reform and its nothing less than breathtaking. When asked about this Reform disingenuously claimed:-

‘We are keen to involve corporate organisations in our research because their expertise is often left out of the Whitehall policy discussion.’

Oh yeah?

As Robertson points out Reform’s corporate partners represent some of the most powerful companies in the country, including the likes of Citigroup, KPMG, GlaxoSmithKline and Serco. Partners are asked to donate £7,500 (or more if they choose), annually to the charitable Reform Research Trust and currently 31 companies across all the key sectors are only too willing to part with this amount. Such sums of money are of little consequence to these global companies, and in return their agenda of further outsourcing makes its way to government ears through newspapers, research reports and key events.

In fact 9 of the companies who are listed as corporate partners of Reform employ members of the House of Lords on their payroll. G4S, who are at the heart of government consideration for contracts on security and policing, have former Labour Secretary of State for Defence, Lord Reid, as a director. Since 2010, G4S have had 17 government meetings and 5 oral presentations. Serco, the public services giant, has billions of pounds worth of government contracts, and also has Lord Filkin as an advisor on public affairs. At the time of reporting last October, Robertson found they had met the government on at least 36 occasions since 2010. Possibly more times than Rupert Murdoch and his friends.

And  an annual donation is not the only way these corporations  give money to Reform. One key element of their work is to set up meetings and events to bring together MPs and representatives from the various corporations willing to pay them money. In 2011 alone, 68 different companies supported Reform, either via donation or sponsorship, totalling a weighty sum of £770,000. However, according to the Charity Commission website, their total income is over £1.25 Million.

download (3)  For example, on Monday 24th September last year health minister, Norman Lamb, headed up the table at a policy dinner sponsored by the UK’s biggest private hospital company, BMI Healthcare. General Healthcare Group, who own BMI Healthcare, gave Reform £24,500 in 2011 and were presumably covering the costs of the meal. BMI Healthcare came to the public’s attention back in July 2012 when the Independent revealed how the executive director of the private BMI Meriden Hospital, Bernie Creaven, sent a letter instructing doctors to ‘artificially delay operations on non-paying patients to encourage them to pay fees.’ ( http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/private-hospital-told-doctors-to-delay-nhs-work-to-boost-profits-7962582.html).

circlewebRobertson goes on to tell us that Reform is at the forefront of promoting the policy of outsourcing hospitals. In February 2012, Circle became the first company to start running an NHS hospital after being given a 10-year contract to run Hitchingbrooke hospital in Cambridge. Just 6 months into its tenure, Circle produced a press release telling us how they have cut waiting times, improved care and delivered savings. This announcement was enough for the media, and the Telegraph in particular, to move into action; they hailed the hospital a success despite only 5% of the tenure being complete.

download (1) What followed was a sequence of articles written by Reform for the Telegraph that promoted the benefits of hospital outsourcing; a policy that will benefit both Circle Health, who were the former employers of Reform’s deputy director, Nick Seddon, and of course the UK’s largest hospital group, BMI Healthcare.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/9444479/Hope-for-the-NHS.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/7886304/Is-the-NHS-getting-the-right-treatment.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/8880683/Comment-private-takeover-of-Hinchingbrooke-Hospital-is-the-shape-of-things-to-come.html

http://nhsvault.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/hinchingbrooke-double-fail.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9443682/Hinchingbrooke-hospital-turned-around-by-Circle-in-six-months.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/pharmaceuticalsandchemicals/9450088/Ali-Parsa-Government-should-not-be-running-hospitals.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/9444397/Hinchingbrooke-shows-what-private-companies-can-do-for-the-NHS.html

images (2)May 16th 2011, David Cameron gave a speech, which brought to an end the so-called ‘listening exercise’ during the controversial passage of the Health and Social Care Bill.In amongst the audience was David Worskett, who had ‘received an invitation to the PM’s big speech’. Mr Worskett, who had worked tirelessly throughout the Health bill ‘pause’ on behalf of the NHS Partners Network, was delighted to hear that Mr Cameron had ‘specifically added a sentence about the importance of patients being able to attend private hospitals if they wanted to…’Circle would also have been pleased, especially as they are members of the NHS Partners Network. On the same day as Cameron’s speech, Reform produced a report, titled: ‘It can be done’. The short report contained a series of six case studies on the involvement of private companies running public services, one of which, focused on Germany and how they are increasing the amount of hospitals run by for-profit companies. (http://www.reform.co.uk/attachments/files/50_It_Can_Be_Done_FINAL.pdf)

images (5)In 2012 a report by the Bureau of Investigative journalism, highlighted how Circle had a net debt of 42.4m, an operating loss of £17m with a fall of total revenue of 2.4% from 2010. Not mentioned in any of the copious Telegraph articles we were being inundated with. (http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/06/06/circle-holdings-eyes-hospital-bid-as-share-price-plummets/)  Nor did they highlight the fact that Circle are owned by companies and investment funds registered in the British Virgin Islands, Jersey and the Cayman Islands. Corporate Watch, a research group monitoring large corporations, produced a report, titled ‘An unhealthy business’ revealed how companies registered in the British Virgin Islands ‘do not have to make their accounts public.’ Indeed when Corporate Watch asked to see their accounts, they were met with silence.

images (6) At the time of the 2012 TUC conference, Reform released a ‘briefing’, which made a series of suggestions on how to weaken the public sector and their workforce conditions. In response to this, the GMB union wrote an article that claimed Reform was a ‘fake charity’, calling on the Charity Commission to recheck their criteria that allows organisations like the think thank Reform to exist as a charity. (http://www.reform.co.uk/resources/0000/0468/Reform_briefing_-_TUC_Congress.pdf)

lord warner apax LORD WARNER

Robertson’s report reveals the chilling fact that Reform are also invited to meetings where minutes are not taken with Parliamentarians present. In April last year, as the government were in their so-called ‘listening period’, Reform hosted an event with Lord Warner as chair. Lord Warner is a former adviser to Apax Partners, one of the leading global investors in the healthcare sector. Current director of Sage Advice Ltd, he works as an adviser to Xansa, a technology firm, and Byotrol, an antimicrobial company, which both sell services or products to the NHS and was paid by DLA Piper, which advised ministers on the £12 billion IT project for the NHS, a project that he was responsible for when he was a government minister.

images (4)The meeting with Lord Warner was allegedly held under Chatham House Rules, which are a near century old custom  used to supposedly allow participants to speak freely without fear of their words being highlighted in the media. What it means is that the public have no idea what was said as no minutes are taken and none of the participants can announce to the public who was there. Therefore information that comes out from these meetings is controlled.

Robertson was emphatic that Reform were holding meetings without minutes with key figures, though who many of them were remains unknown to him. He believes they were part of the ‘orchestration’ of the Telegraph’s pro privatisation editorial, and that they were heavily promoting the benefits of outsourcing hospitals of which one of the corporate partners would be a beneficiary.

seddonNICK SEDDON

If further proof is necessary of the revolving door culture in Westminster then David Cameron’s choice for a new health advisor at Number 10 should convince us.

In May this year Cameron welcomed former lobbyist Nick Seddon into the heart of Downing Street, as his health adviser. Seddon’s last role was as deputy director of ‘Reform’ – a free market think tank extensively funded by healthcare and insurance companies. He has openly called for an end to the NHS as we know it, and promoted the idea of an insurance-based system.

Here are a few more of Reform’s Westminster connections.

jeremy browne libdemJEREMY BROWNE LIBDEM

frank feild labFRANK FIELD LABOUR

julian smith advisorJULIAN SMITH CONSERVATIVE

lord higginsLORD HIGGINS CONSERVATIVE

lord watsonLORD WATSON CONSERVATIVE

mark simmondsMARK SIMMONDS CONSERVATIVE

nick herbert mpNICK HERBERT CONSERVATIVE

Keep an eye on them.

Reform continue to push for the further role of private companies in the NHS many of whom are the partners and are linked to our so-called public servants. They call themselves a charity, which is patently absurd, and if we are to call ourselves a democracy, the use of organisations like this must not use the Chatham House Rules, which are used widely across political organisations.The time has surely come to end their charity status.

AND WE NEED TO FIGHT EVEN HARDER TO SAVE OUR NHS.