How the NHS wasted £16m of your money on a botched privatisation that collapsed within months

portrait-meghillier

Meg Hillier MP:,chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, condemned the failings in the scheme

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New ways of  helping the elderly and mentally ill survive in the community and not continually end up in hospital is a cornerstone of government policy.

So when a limited liability partnership offered a cash strapped  NHS commissioning group an initiative which promised better services for these people and could save them £178m over five years it sounded too good to be true.

The trouble is it was. As a devastating report from the National Audit Office reveals today the £800m scheme  ran into trouble just four weeks after it was launched and collapsed seven months later. You can read the full story on the Exaro website.

The scandal of the £800m scheme run by UnitingCare Partnership for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough clinical commissioning group may not be an isolated instance.That is why sources at the National Audit Office have highlighted it in their report – because it exposes an alarming lack of financial expertise inside the NHS and a flawed system to monitor whether projects like this are financially feasible  andcan  be properly checked.

The promised aim of the project was to establish  tapering payments to the partnership – with £152m up front and less money later, ¬ so that the financially challenged commissioning group could put money to better use.

But within four weeks of starting the contract the partnership was asking for an extra £34m, blaming a delay by the commissioning authority in starting the work. When the money was not forthcoming the scheme collapsed after eight months and the NHS was forced to provide services directly.

The NAO report reveals that despite employing reputable financial companies and lawyers, basic errors were made – including a failure to realise that sub-contractors could not recover the VAT from the partnership – a cost that had not been factored into the contract.

Auditors also report that nobody had overall oversight of the contract.

No wonder both Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, and Meg Hillier, the Labour chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee have been withering in their criticism.

Amyas Morse said: “This contract was innovative and ambitious but ultimately an unsuccessful venture, which failed for financial reasons which could, and should, have been foreseen.”

Meg Hillier said: “The result is damning: a contract terminated before the ink had even dried out, at an unnecessary cost of £16m.”

What is disturbing is that the NAO point out that Monitor, the body which checks health bodies, had no locus to check whether the scheme was viable and NHS England were too remote to act.”

The report says: ““No organisation was responsible for taking a holistic view of the risks and benefits of this approach, or considering whether the anticipated longer‐term benefits were sufficient to justify additional short‐term support.“

What is really disturbing  is that £16m was wasted -plus £8.9m  on setting up a complex tendering operation and start up costs.

Far better to have spent this extra money on patient and community care – instead of throwing our money down the drain on a scheme that anyone would have thought to be too good to be true.

 

NHS: Investigation into historic unexpected deaths of elderly patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital

Entrance to Gosport  War Memorial Hospital Picture credit:BBC

Entrance to Gosport War Memorial Hospital Picture credit:BBC

Today I have been appointed to serve on an independent panel to review all the documentary evidence into historic unexpected deaths of elderly patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire.

The panel will be chaired by Bishop James Jones, the former Bishop of Liverpool,  who chaired the Hillsborough Inquiry into the deaths of  Liverpool football fans.

The inquiry will try to obtain all the facts behind the deaths of patients at this hospital stretching back for a large number of years.

The aim is to address the concerns of families who lost loved ones and are very unhappy about the way they were treated by the authorities.

While the investigation is under way for the next three years I have been asked to keep a vow of silence about its findings until they are made public.

This is because my prime duty is to the families who believe they have been seriously let down and I intend to devote my energies as an investigative journalist to get as near to the truth as possible.

So you will find nothing on this blog about the investigation. Any journalist hoping for leaks on information this inquiry is uncovering is also going to be very disappointed. There will be an official website outlining the scope and nature of the investigation and who sits on the panel. The link is    gosportpanel.independent.gov.uk

But the only people who should know the findings in advance will be the families themselves.

Stuff the poor to help the elderly:Hunt moves to adopt Lansley’s bad plan for the NHS

Andrew Lansley: let’s kill off the poor to help the elderly

Update: The new NHS Commissioning Board announced this week it was proceeding with scrapping the existing formula from next April – by adopting a flat rate increase  for funding this year. It also announced it will ” conduct an urgent fundamental review of the approach to allocations, drawing on the expert advice of ACRA and involving all partners whose functions impact on outcomes and inequalities.” This will come into force in 2014-15.

In fact this will mean a redistribution to areas with large numbers of elderly people at the expense of poorer areas like the North East of England, Central Manchester  and Salford and the London borough of Tower Hamlets. All this will be in place for the run up to the next general election.

Fresh from creating chaos as part of his so-called NHS ” reforms” Andrew Lansley has let slip another dastardly plan to cope with the genuine burgeoning costs of a growing elderly population.

Basically it’s very simple: Take away  the NHS cash from the poorest parts of England and give to the relatively affluent seaside resorts and the suburbs.

I am indebted to hawk-eyed reporter David Williamson at the Health Services Journal ( behind a pay wall at http://bit.ly/K7dceG ) for spotting a virtually unreported speech in London during the Parliamentary recess to new commissioning bodies who will  be spending the NHS cash from next year.

He told them they “should be looking at what is in… population data that is likely to give rise to a demand for NHS services”.

“What is likely to make the biggest difference, therefore? Actually it’s elderly population, who were not in substantial deprivation”.

He added :“Some of the lowest spending on stroke and cancer services were in areas with high elderly populations such as Fylde and Eastbourne, places where there were quite a lot of older people who weren’t poor”.

What Lansley is proposing – and the Department of Health is helpfully not making his speech available on its website is seismic in NHS terms. Ever since Clement Attlee set up the NHS, its main aim has been to improve the life chances of the poor most of them die long  before affluent and middle classes.

The Royal College of Nursing in the North East and Newcastle MP former Labour minister, Nick Brown, have spotted exactly what it means.

As Glen Turp, regional director of the RCN put it: “It is well-known that in areas of social disadvantage, local populations experience higher incidents of heart disease, cancer, emphysema, diabetes, as well as a range of other diseases caused in part by our industrial history and the work that our communities undertook. Health outcomes are directly linked to poverty and inequality, and to use age as the measure rather than inequality is simply the wrong thing to do. ”

To ram home his point: “The shocking truth is that if you live in Chelsea and Westminster in London, a man can expect to live to 86 years of age. However, in Hendon, in Sunderland, male life expectancy is only 69. That’s a 17 year difference. It’s nothing short of obscene, and frankly that is what the NHS funding formula should be all about.”

For those interested in more details Tom Gorman has tweeted me a map – showing some of the changes – the link is http://goo.gl/dyuGe .

Lansley plans to be even nastier in the way he plans to implement it. He intends to deny the government is doing it by tipping the wink to a quango  – the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation which recommends how NHS budgets should be split up.

At the Conference, Lansley gave the game away: “The advisory committee will do this, I won’t— the number crunching should get progressively to a greater focus on what the actual determinants of health need” and that “Age is the principal determinant of health need”.

But there is also a cynical political side to this. By withdrawing money from poor areas, he can halt  the trend of living longer among mainly Labour voters, save the pension bill by ensuring that if they die off at 69 or even younger, they will in future not even need to receive a state pension.

But in the sunlight uplands of mainly Tory areas, the cuts that will inevitably come will be blunted or services improved in time for the 2015 election. And it won’t cost him an extra penny, all the money will be taken from Labour areas.

The formula is almost a Tory right winger’s wet dream.  Ed Miliband’s supporters dying off as they wait for operations in Labour seats, and the prospect of Tory and Liberal Democrat voters living longer and longer in Chelsea, Bournemouth, Eastbourne and Torquay.

Perhaps Mr Lansley should be told what we think of this. His emails are: lansleya@parliament.uk  and andrew.lansley@doh.gov.uk. If that fails perhaps the faceless people who sit on this quango, the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation, should be contacted. Interestingly, the Department of Health, has not updated their membership since 2008 and archived the list. Perhaps Mr Lansley doesn’t want us to know.

After all , should Mr Lansley be allowed to get away with literally killing off the opposition.