Private firm wins disputed NHS contract in London

Care UK wins disputed health contract in London

Money doesn’t talk, it swears,’ Bob Dylan

In 2015, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in north east London awarded the contract to run a treatment centre to a local NHS hospital trust. Care UK appealed against the decision to Monitor, the NHS competition authority. The commissioning groups were forced to re-run the bidding and, according to a recent article in the Health Service Journal (21 Sept 2017), the CCGs have backed down and awarded the £55 million contract to Care UK.

The private health company, Care UK, is owned by Bridgepoint, a pan-European private equity investor valued at £1 billion. Bridgepoint owns or is a major investor in numerous businesses from Pret a Manger to Leeds Bradford Airport.

Care UK has an annual turnover of about £800 million. Before the Tories were elected to government in 2010, Care UK’s chairman, John Nash, made a contribution of £21,000 to the private office of Andrew Lansley, who later became Health Secretary and brought in the Health and Social Care Act of 2013 which forced the NHS to put health services out to contract on the private market. In 2014, John Nash, now Lord Nash, became a government minister. According to Care UK’s website, it is now ‘the UK’s largest independent provider of health and social care services, operating more than 300 facilities across the United Kingdom’. These include treatment centres, GP services, diagnostics, prison health services, and it is the largest provider of out of hours services with more than ten million patients.

In 2014, Care UK took over services for people with severe learning disabilities in Doncaster, south Yorkshire. They cut the wages of previous NHS staff by up to 35% and hired new staff at £7 an hour. Fifty carers began strike action in protest. The strike lasted 90 days, one of the longest strikes in the history of the NHS.

According to a Guardian article, Care UK has not paid a penny in corporation tax since it was bought by Bridgepoint Capital in 2010.

Gus Fagan

Oxfordshire KONP

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