Tories receive £21,000 donation from private health firm

Posted on January 15, 2010. Filed under: News stories | Tags: , |

Healthcare Republic | Neil Durham | 15 January 2010

The Tories are insisting ‘donations from private individuals in no way influence policy-making decisions’ after private health provider Care UK donated £21,000 to fund the personal office of shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley.

Healthcare Republic has reported that Care UK runs GP practices, out-of-hours centres, clinical assessment, treatment and support services and walk-in centres

The Daily Telegraph broke the story that John Nash, a private equity tycoon and the chairman of Care UK, made the donation in November. However, the Tories insist that the donation was from Mr Nash’s wife.

A spokesman for the Conservatives said: ‘We have been completely transparent about this donation. It has been properly registered with the parliamentary register as well as with the Electoral Commission and is therefore fully within the rules.

‘John Nash and his wife have a wide range of interests, of which Care UK is just one. The donation to support Mr Lansley’s office was made through Conservative central headquarters. Mr Lansley did not solicit this donation. Donations from private individuals in no way influence policy-making decisions.’

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Lansley accepts cash donation from wife of Care UK chief

Posted on January 15, 2010. Filed under: GP-led health centres, News stories | Tags: , , |

Pulse | By Gareth Iacobucci | 15 January 2010

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley has accepted a large cash donation from the wife of the head of one of the biggest private firms to provide services for the NHS, it has emerged.

The wife of John Nash, chairman of Care UK, whose portfolio includes numerous APMS practices and GP-led health centres across the country, gave £21,000 to Mr Lansley’s personal office in November.

The revelation comes just days after Pulse revealed that the Tories have opened talks with a series of private firms, after their manifesto pledged to increase the role of the independent sector in the NHS.

The party told Pulse talks were ongoing with ‘a wide range’ of providers as part of a drive to create a more competitive NHS marketplace, with sources close to Westminster disclosing that Care UK were among the firms talking to the Tories.

A spokesman for the Conservative party said: ‘We have been completely transparent about this donation. It has been properly registered with the parliamentary register as well as with the Electoral Commission and is therefore fully within the rules.

‘John Nash and his wife have a wide range of interests, of which Care UK is just one. This donation to support Mr Lansley’s office was made through Conservative Campaign Headquarters. Mr Lansley did not solicit this donation. Donations from private individuals in no way influence policy making decisions.’

Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb said the donation exposed the Tories’ conflict of interest on the NHS.

He said: ‘This is a staggering conflict of interest which completely undermines the Tories claim that the NHS would be safe in their hands. Many people will question Andrew Lansley’s judgement and the impact that these donations have on Conservative health policy.

‘With Labour in the pockets of the unions and the Tories taking money from private health firms, only the Liberal Democrats can be trusted to run our NHS.’

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Tories open up talks with private firms

Posted on January 13, 2010. Filed under: News stories | Tags: , |

Pulse | By Ian Quinn, Gareth Iacobucci | 13 January 2010

The Conservatives have opened talks with a series of private firms after pledging to step up the role of the independent sector in the NHS.

The party told Pulse talks were ongoing with ‘a wide range’ of providers from the private and voluntary sectors, as part of moves to create a more competitive NHS marketplace should it win the election.

But the policy, outlined in a manifesto document released last week, puts the Conservatives on a collision course with the BMA, which has issued a fresh appeal for politicians to slam the brakes on private sector involvement in the NHS.

A draft health manifesto, unveiled by leader David Cameron, confirmed plans for GPs to take control of real commissioning budgets, which could see practices working in partnership with private firms.

It states a Conservative government would ‘open up the NHS to include new independent and voluntary sector providers’, which would be allowed to compete on a level footing with NHS providers.

It is the Tories’ strongest statement yet on the role of the private sector in the NHS, and puts clear water between them and Labour – with health secretary Andy Burnham instructing PCTs to make NHS providers first choice in all tendering.

The extent of the Government’s U-turn was underlined after its new policy faced scrutiny from its own Co-operation and Competition panel. NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney was referred for excluding non-NHS providers from a tendering process.

The Conservative proposals came just days after the BMA issued a set of resolutions, including a call for politicians to stop ‘wasting taxpayers’ money’ on ‘unnecessary and expensive commercial-sector solutions’.

David Stout, director of the NHS Confederation’s PCT network, said the Tories had indicated they were keen for GPs to partner with private firms such as UnitedHealth, Bupa and Humana on commissioning.

TORY NHS PLEDGES

• Open up NHS to competition from private and voluntary sectors
• Scrap NHS targets
• Give GPs power to hold patient budgets and commission care
• Divert resources to poorest areas
• Cut NHS red tape by a third
• Unleash ‘information revolution’ by making detailed data about the performance of trust and GPs available online

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Tory boost for providers

Posted on January 6, 2010. Filed under: News stories, Providers | Tags: |

Pulse | 6 January 2010

Any provider able to deliver a service that meets required standards and is within a NHS tariff will be allowed to offer their services to patients, the Conservatives have announced in their draft health manifesto.

The document says the Tories want to ‘open up the NHS to include new independent and voluntary sector providers. If they can deliver a service that patients want to a high standard and within the NHS tariff then they should be allowed to do so’.

It adds: ‘We will give everyone the power to choose any healthcare provider that meets NHS standards.’

The policy appears to draw a line in the sand over the NHS market with Labour whose health secretary Andy Burnham last year said the NHS was the ‘preferred provider’.

Published on Monday to kickstart the Tory election campaign, the document also makes clear GPs will be the commissioners of patients’ care and will hold patients’ budgets.

‘We want the family doctor to be the patient’s guide throughout the NHS so we will give GPs the power to hold patients’ budgets and commission care on their behalf either in hospitals or using other forms of treatment and therapy in GP surgeries or specialised clinics.’

The manifesto also pledges to cut NHS administration by a third by devolving decision making to patients.

The NAPC said it ‘warmly welcomed’ the manifesto’s proposals, particularly the move to give GPs the power to hold patients’ budgets.

‘Such a proposal resonates strongly with this organisation’s own manifesto published last November’, commented Mike Ramsden, Chief Executive Officer of NAPC.

‘Similarly, NAPC is delighted that the Conservatives intend to devolve decision-making closer to patients, eliminating unnecessary layers of bureaucracy and transfer freed up resources to support frontline doctors and nurses’, he continued. ‘Such a move is extremely important, at a time when the funding of the NHS is so very seriously challenged’.

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BMA rejects Tory ‘GP-led rationing’

Posted on December 10, 2009. Filed under: News stories | Tags: , |

Healthcare Republic | GP newspaper | By Richard Staines | 10 December 2009

As the BMA launches its general election manifesto, Richard Staines looks at the political battle lines being drawn.

Dr Meldrum: 'Patients must be involved in discussions about how to deliver care, rather then rationing through a sort if fundholding'

The BMA is on a collision course with the Conservatives over plans to hand GPs control of NHS commissioning.

The Conservatives, favourites to win the next general election, want to hand GPs real budgets and responsibility for all NHS commissioning.

But at last week’s launch of the BMA’s general election manifesto, doctors’ leaders opposed the Tory policy, saying it would place GPs at the centre of an NHS rationing system.

Commissioning debate
The BMA is calling on all political parties to adopt its manifesto ahead of the general election, which must take place by 3 June 2010.

According to the Conservatives’ NHS Improvement Plan, budget holding is a ‘natural guarantee of efficiency, ensuring money follows the patient and it is spent on front-line care rather than on managers’.

‘GPs – rather than remote managers – should be responsible for reconciling the available resources with clinical priorities and patient choice,’ it says.

But launching the BMA manifesto, BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said: ‘I am not convinced this is going to be appropriate for GPs. We would like a much more co-operative system. Patients must be involved in discussions about how to deliver care, rather than rationing through a sort of fundholding.

‘We would want to see co-operative community primary care leadership involving patients, involving GPs, to build effective healthcare services.

‘I am not sure GPs would want to take responsibility for rationing services.’

Other NHS organisations agree. The NHS Alliance opposes fundholding and argues for local commissioning councils governing populations of around 100,000 people.

Dr David Jenner, GMS lead at the NHS Alliance, says: ‘The responsibility for commissioning should be outside the GP provider contract. But we do believe the GP provider contract should put more emphasis on demonstrating effective resource management.

‘Each practice should demonstrate that it is reviewing everything from prescribing to referrals to ensure the best use of resources.’

Despite the opposition, the Conservatives say they will argue their case. A spokesman said: ‘A lot of family doctors think that having more responsibility for their patients is a good thing. We are going to work with GPs to push this through.’

One set of GPs more likely to back the Tory stance is the National Association of Primary Care, whose own manifesto launched last month backed GP budget-holding and won support from the Conservatives.

Calls to action
The DoH says it remains committed to ‘revitalising’ its current policy of practice-based commissioning (PBC), with PCTs retaining control of budgets.

PBC was described in October as a ‘corpse’ by the government’s national clinical director for primary care, Dr David Colin-Thome, although he later backtracked on the remarks.

But a study by the King’s Fund in July showed 52 per cent of primary care professionals were not engaged in PBC by their PCTs and almost a third (29 per cent) of respondents reported delays of more than 25 weeks getting PBC business plans approved.

The BMA manifesto also reiterates calls for changes to the GMS contract to boost partnerships. ‘Changes could make it more attractive to take on additional partners, particularly in areas of greater need,’ says Dr Meldrum.

In addition, the manifesto warns against a ‘slash-and-burn’ approach to tackling the financial crisis. ‘It would be disastrous to resort to measures such as cutting front-line services and clinical staff at a time when demand for healthcare will be increasing,’ says Dr Meldrum.

The BMA also reiterates its call for action to combat alcohol-related harm, tobacco use and obesity.

Measures proposed include above-inflation tax rises on alcohol, minimum pricing, an end to ‘happy hours’ and a total ban on alcohol advertising.

The association wants to see a tobacco-free society by 2035, and the manifesto urges the DoH to tackle obesity by introducing consistent traffic-light food information systems and banning on junk food advertising.

Action must be taken to cut climate change and its effects on health, the document adds.

It also reignites the debate on organ donation, backing the ‘presumed consent’ model the DoH has rejected.

BMA MANIFESTO AT A GLANCE

  • Increased alcohol duty and a ban on alcohol advertising.
  • Increased tax on tobacco and censorship of films glamourising smoking.
  • National traffic-light food information to cut obesity and ban on advertising for unhealthy foods.
  • A public debate on an opt-out system for organ donation.
  • Political parties should combat climate change and its negative health effects.
  • GPs should be engaged with practice-based commissioning, but not fundholding.
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Tories back GPs and patients to control NHS funding

Posted on November 17, 2009. Filed under: News stories | Tags: , |

Healthcare Republic | Joe Lepper | 17 November 2009

A National Association of Primary Care (NAPC) ‘manifesto’ calling for GPs and patients to control NHS funding could become a blueprint for primary care reform in the next parliament, after it was endorsed by the Conservative Party.

The manifesto says practice-based commissioning (PBC) has failed in many areas and calls for practices and patients to control local health funding.

It calls for ‘full accountability for the use of NHS resources transferring from PCTs to GPs, giving practices significant independence from PCTs’.

Local people should be more involved with practices on commissioning decisions, ‘through use of a health dividend, the efficiency gain to be achieved through better use of NHS resources’, it adds.

The NAPC has met all three main political parties and aims to speak with MPs in the coming weeks to refine the plans.

Conservative shadow health minister Mark Simmonds said he had met the NAPC earlier this month. He said he was not involved in developing the manifesto, but backed its focus on local accountability.

‘I welcome many of the NAPC’s proposals, as they are in line with Conservative Party thinking on primary care.  We welcome their call for GPs to have accountability for resources, as we have proposed a system of GP commissioning, in which GPs hold real, not notional budgets.’

NAPC chairman Dr Johnny Marshall conceded that many of the manifesto’s aims are broadly in line with Tory plans.

‘But we are hoping to get support from politicians from all sides,’ he said. ‘PBC has failed to deliver universal improvements. In some areas it has worked, in others it has not. We need to take it to the next level and I hope there will be support for that in all parties.’

GP contracts would have to be renegotiated to incorporate practices’ new powers, he said.

NAPC vice-president Dr Peter Smith said details to be refined in the coming weeks include clarity on how local people will be involved in decisions about healthcare funding. ‘We want to see how local people and practices can work far more closely together so that practices can be more responsive to local needs.’

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Andrew Lansley warns against ‘chilling’ preferred provider policy

Posted on November 11, 2009. Filed under: Journals, News stories | Tags: |

Health Service Journal | By Charlotte Shantry | 11 November 2009

A Conservative government would return to an “any willing provider” model, the shadow health secretary has said.

Addressing delegates at last week’s NHS Employers conference in Birmingham, Andrew Lansley said all primary care trust providers should be encouraged to request to become social enterprises or apply for community foundation trust status.

But he said the government’s new policy of treating the NHS as the preferred provider would damage social enterprises. “[Government policy] will have a very chilling and damaging effect on social enterprises [that] think they can provide services within the NHS,” he said.

“I want to make it absolutely clear that we’re committed to an any willing provider policy. We must look for whoever is best able to deliver the care and services we want for patients,” he said.

Mr Lansley said the social enterprise model offered PCTs the chance to improve employee engagement while remaining within the NHS.

The shadow health secretary also said he wanted the foundation trust regime simplified and defended his plans to cut by a third the administrative costs of PCTs, strategic health authorities, quangos and the Department of Health.

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Exclusive: Tories to end UK GP contract and write new one

Posted on October 28, 2009. Filed under: News stories | Tags: |

Healthcare Republic | By Tom Ireland | 28 October 2009

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley has confirmed there will be a new GP contract if the Conservatives take office.

After his speech to the NHS Alliance conference in Manchester last week, Mr Lansley told GP newspaper that in order to put commissioning responsibility in the hands of GPs: ‘We would need a new contract. And legislation, too.’

A Conservative spokesman confirmed the UK-wide contract would be split up, as the commissioning policy would be enforced in England only.

Mr Lansley insisted that the ‘real budgets’ GPs will be handed to buy and organise health services locally will be kept separate from practice income: ‘If [GPs] have a deficit on their budget it doesn’t come out of their practice’s income.’

However, GPs who persistently fail to balance the books could lose their contracts, the Conservative spokesman made clear.

Mr Lansley also confirmed that GPs will be able to let GP consortia or private firms commission on their behalf.

Following ‘considerable discussions’ with the GPC, the Conservatives are now working on the best way to use data to work out how much GPs are allocated.

The shadow health secretary added that the outcomes-focused QOF the Conservatives plan to develop should mean GPs’ efforts to redesign services are rewarded as public health improves.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said he would discuss funding plans for GP commissioning in detail only if the Conservatives are elected next year.

But his main concern was how GP income is kept separate from commissioning performance. He suggested GPs may be put off if their basic income was under threat.

He added: ‘What happens if the money runs out? What happens to GPs who are not trained or not very good, at managing budgets?’

Dr Buckman was also concerned about GPs being able to hand commissioning responsibility to private companies. ‘Consortia aren’t a worry, private companies are. That will allow the private sector to get into all sorts of things, like commissioning services from themselves.’

  • Read this week’s GP dated 30 October for the full version of this story
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Backing for shadow health minister advising private GP firm

Posted on August 19, 2009. Filed under: News stories | Tags: , , |

Healthcare Republic | By Neil Durham | 19 August 2009

Conservative leader David Cameron has backed shadow health minister Lord McColl who is under fire for advising a firm which offers customers an alternative to NHS doctors.

Lord McColl is on the advisory board of Endeavour Health, which promises quick and convenient access to a network of private GPs.

Mr Cameron said in a statement: ‘My understanding is that yes, he has carried out a couple of consultations for this private company, all of that has been properly declared. I think he himself has said that if there is anything improper about what this company has done, he’ll sever any contact with it.

‘I think that’s a perfectly satisfactory state of affairs.

‘It’s not illegal to use private health in Britain, but we want to expand the NHS, and make sure it’s as good as it possibly can be, so people don’t have to use the private sector.’

Last week shadow Conservative health secretary Andrew Lansleycriticised a Conservative MEP for attacking the NHS on an American talk show.

Last night Liberal Democrat shadow health secretary Norman Lambtwittered: ‘Tory health spokesman can’t remain on front bench whilst being paid consultant to Endeavour Health. Incredible they think this is appropriate.’

This morning the Tory leader was due to make an uncheduled speech on health in Bolton to put an end to the party’s miserable week and spell out its plans for the future.

neil.durham@haymarket.com


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