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US Healthcare Boss To Be Appointed Chief Executive Of NHS England Next Year

Chris Ingram, CWU member and Unionsafety web editor, reports on the next stage of the Privatisation of the NHS:

The full privatisation of the NHS will begin in ernest next April, when the new chief executive of NHS England is to be the current Executive Vice President of the biggest American private healthcare company United Health Group! He is also president of its Global Health division and before that health policy director for former Prime Minister Tony Blair, responsible for reform of the NHS under the last Labour government.

Pic: Simon Stevens NHS UndertakerSimon Stevens was the architect of New Labour’s health reforms, which was clearly setting the scene for the privatisation of the NHS. Working with Alan Milburn the Health Secretary in 1997, they assured New Labour created market-style competition in the health service – as proposed by Simon Stevens.

During his time with New Labour he worked closely with Tony Blair from 2001 until he left the UK in 2004 to take up his lucrative post at the American company United Health Europe (UHE) as their president.

Shortly afterwards, UHE were given their first contract to provide NHS healthcare services, which was their first taste of the prospect of controlling hundreds of millions of pounds in the commissioning budgets of primary care trusts.

So, of course he has been welcomed by the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, as a “reformer and an innovator”.

Hunt went on to say:

“He will make a key contribution to the two biggest challenges facing the NHS right now: how to raise standards of care and also be financially sustainable. His passion for our universal health service free at the point of use goes back many years, but he will add international expertise as we face the challenges ahead.”

It must be remembered of course that the clever and misleading phrase, “universal health service free at the point of use” was first used in Tony Blair's New Labour government during which the first major changes to the NHS were brought in with foundation hospitals and PFI private contracts in the NHS.

The phrase has been taken by the public to mean the none-privatisation of the NHS, when in fact it specifically does not!

Under Blair's successive governments, private healthcare companies saw their largest in-road into NHS care services since 1948 and during which many of Labour ministers and MPs had major interests in private healthcare companies, and still do so.

Indeed, Blairs’ wife Cherie heads one of the UK’s newest private healthcare companies, MEE Healthcare, which is based in the tax haven of the Cayman Islands; and partly funded by American venture capitalists. Once again, its CEO is an American, Gail Lese who even ran for the state senate of Massachusetts.

Pic: Cherie Blair's private healthcare company website.Of course, Cherie Blair herself will personally gain from the further privatisation of the NHS, as well as the company which she started, MEE.

Meanwhile, the Tory-led coalition government claims they have no intention of privatising the NHS, whilst at the same time appointing the USA’s leading private healthcare company boss, Simon Stevens; to head the NHS!

The current head of NHS England is Sir David Nicholson, who was chief executive of the West Midlands strategic health authority in 2005/06 that oversaw Stafford hospital, where up to 1,200 patients died because of failures in care.

He was subsequently highly criticised in the Frances Report into the failures of care at the Mid Staffordshire Foundation NHS Trust and resigned.

Amazingly he was then made head of NHS England!

Given this recent history of NHS chief appointments, many GPs and commentators are extremely skeptical of any government appointee being in any way competent or indeed having the appropriate principles; to head the NHS in England.

This latest appointment of an American who leads the biggest private healthcare company in the USA, is further evidence of this government’s aim of privatisation of the NHS and of putting private profit above the health of NHS patients.

The Pulse Today website, which is aimed at GP’s and health professionals gives further details of the appointment:

NHS England said that Mr Stevens would be paid a salary of £211,000, but had volunteered to take a voluntary 10% pay cut for the year ahead, so he will instead draw a salary of £189,900.

Pic: NHS England chairman Prof Sir Malcolm GrantProfessor Malcolm Grant, chair of NHS England, said that they had looked at over 100 potential candidates and that Mr Stevens was the best man for the job because he could bring experience from many different models of healthcare delivery.

He told BBC Radio 4:

‘In Simon Stevens, we are confident we have found someone who is a global leader in health. We wanted to find the best person to bring new ideas and innovation into the NHS.’

For ‘new ideas and innovation into the NHS’, read ‘privatisation’!

But don’t take commentators word for it – as Mr Stevens himself explains:

In a statement, Mr Stevens said:

"The next five years are going to be extremely challenging for the NHS, but compassionate high quality care for all is as vital as ever.

It will be a privilege to lead NHS England - at a time when the stakes have never been higher – because I believe in the NHS, and because I believe that a broad new partnership of patients, carers, staff and the public can together chart a successful future for our health service."

However one senior doctor told The Independent that the medical profession may view Mr Stevens with suspicion.

“Clinicians will remember him as an architect of New Labour’s marketisation of the health service. He was very pro the idea of opening up provision to multiple providers. He was keen on having competition as a lever in the NHS… Nicholson was seen as a centralist, very into the state. Stevens will be seen as the opposite. A lot of the profession, especially those committed to traditional NHS values will see this as a very different slant.”

As can be expected of course, current government appointed heads of the coalitions’ new layers of management of the NHS as part of its re-organisation and marketisation have praise for the appointment of an American private healthcare company head to lead the NHS.

As Pulse reports:

‘In a joint statement, NHS Clinical Commissioners’ interim chair Dr Charles Alessi and interim president Dr Michael Dixon said the appointment was "hugely welcome".

They said: "The NHS faces significant challenges and we look forward to working with him to to ensure that the commissioning system is aligned around a common goal that means the NHS delivers the highest possible quality care as efficiently as possible."

Matt Tee, chief operating officer of the NHS Confederation welcomed the appointment saying:

"I have known Simon since we worked together at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals. His appointment is really welcome at what is one of the most challenging times in the history of the NHS.

Simon is a highly respected global health leader who has retained close links with the NHS and has NHS values at his core."

Pic: Government's Real NHS PrescriptionCommentators on the Pulse website article are not so sure:

“To oversee the privatisation of the Health Service . He will flog it to his mates in the industry . No conflict of interest because they're all interested in making a profit.”


“He took a 10% pay cut so he must be ever so keen to get privatising.”

This comment from Social Investigation’s Andrew Robertson, says it all:

“The appointment of the Simon Stevens makes perfect sense if you want to fill the position with someone who believes the NHS should be privatised. He does. He believes in the values of the NHS so much he decided to leave it to go to a US healthcare giant.

United Heatlhcare (Stevens) as chief of NHS, McKinsey (Bennett)as head of Monitor, Reform & Circle as head of policy in No10 (Seddon).

The Health bill was written to create a market, the restructuring was to create a market, the words choice are deceitful and those that use it are liars and blaggards.

The sheer volume of MPs and Lords with recent or present financial links to companies involved in healthcare who were able to vote on the legislation makes a mockery of our democracy.

They are not public servants but corporate servants and their interests are that of their paymasters.”

But the trade unions are not expected to welcome whole heartedly the appointment of an American private healthcare giant to head the NHS:

Pic: Christina McAnea, Head of Health, Unite trade union.Christina McAnea, head of health at the trade union Unison said in a press release:

"The NHS is facing its first serious crisis for the best part of the decade, and it is critical that Simon Stevens respects and shares the values of our NHS – universal healthcare that is free at the point of need.

It is surprising that no one within the NHS has been found to take on this position. We sincerely hope this is not a sign that the government wants to import America-type values into the NHS and look at ways of developing healthcare through an insurance model. If this is the intention there will be massive opposition.

Mr Stevens will have his work cut out for him right from the start. Far from being protected from government cuts, the NHS is being starved of the funds it needs. Thousands of jobs are under threat and accident and emergency departments are creaking under the pressure of cuts, privatisation and upheaval."

On Friday she told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4:

"I am surprised that they haven't been able to find someone within the NHS... and somewhat concerned that this is the Tory-Lib Dem government trying to install American medical values."

Ms McAnea said she hoped it was not a "surreptitious attempt" to move away from the NHS values of "free medicine for all".

Source: Pulse Today / Unison / BBC News / The Independent / Daily Mirror / Daily Mail /  Daily Telegraph /  GP Online / Red Pepper Blog

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