Do as I do? NHS agency splashes out on private healthcare for staff

Kat Lay reports in a dismal and instructive report in The Times 16th January 2015: NHS agency splashes out on private healthcare for it’s staff.

NICE is concerned with honesty and the truth, and it bases it’s decisions on evidence.

It is being consistent in it’s attitude to staff. Also it’s prospective staff.

The rejection of 9 out of every 11 applicants, all of who were recommended to apply for medicine by their schools, is disastrous. 10 years later government recruits unethically from countries who can least afford to lose their doctors.

The evidence is that targets are not being met, and that the health service is in managed decline, with the tacit acceptance by ignorant politicians. Health is complex and there are too many facets for the politicians, and for much of the media. A collusion of denial..

Whilst the most important asset of the UK Health services, it’s staff, GPs and juniors, are disillusioned and disengaged, and that despite adequate pay, is not being addressed. How did this happen? It is the fundamental ideology of the health services which need examination, and the honest discussion asked for by Mr Stevens has not even begun. Staff are either retiring, emigrating, becoming locums or taking career breaks. With 80% of undergraduate entrants female, we have a gender bias which builds up over years. This affects absenteeism and lifetime work. The media and the politicians should be asking why, and entering into a prolonged debate on what we cannot afford, and what patients should have a duty to provide for themselves.

NICE’s honesty could be used to stimulate the debate we need, but instead they will be pilloried. The scapegoat Mr Hunt needs (every week) is NICE right now, but he will need more and more scapegoats. A change in the political system could lead to longer term investment in health but without the debate even proportional representation and a second elected house will not be enough.

The health divide means that private care is now faster and better. NICE realises this, and has acted accordingly. Time for our media, and us all to take notice. To win the hearts and minds of the doctors and nurses will need a system founded in reality – overtly saying what we cannot afford and what the individual should be responsible for as a duty.

The agency in charge of NHS standards offers private medical insurance to its staff, an investigation by The Times has discovered.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which frequently rejects potentially life-changing drugs because they would cost too much, pays thousands of pounds a year for health insurance. The staff on the deal were originally taken on as part of a team intended to reduce health inequalities.

Critics said that the payments were astonishing and reflected a “them and us” divide between managers and frontline NHS staff, many of whose pay has plummeted in real terms in recent years.

Data released under the Freedom of Information Act shows that Nice paid £3,091.49 last year for insurance for 19 members of staff.

A separate FoI request found that Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust paid £16,615 for medical health insurance for three people last year. Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spent £7,982 on three members of staff.

Nice says that the staff involved were taken on from the Health Development Agency in 2005, and the terms of their contract mean that they are still eligible for dental and optical insurance. The agency was set up in 2000 to “develop the evidence base to improve health and reduce health inequalities”. It was transferred to Nice in April 2005.

In its FoI response, Nice said: “Those staff who have not changed roles since then are still eligible to dental and optical insurance, but Nice does not provide medical/health insurance to its staff as part of Nice contracts.”

Jonathan Isaby, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s deeply concerning if health regulators are unwilling to use the NHS. That these staff are tasked with reducing health inequalities rubs salt into the wound, given they have cover that millions can’t afford.”

Roger Goss, the co-director of Patient Concern, said: “Why should we take any notice of Nice’s vast output telling everyone else how to behave when a team set up to reduce health inequalities then flouts that principle by giving its own staff preferential healthcare?”

Hull and East Yorkshire hospitals did not respond to repeated requests for more information but it is understood that those staff were taken on from a private provider, meaning that the trust had to honour the terms of their contracts.

Workers are allowed to carry certain benefits over to new employers when they are subject to a takeover under regulations known as transfer of undertakings and protection of employment rights. Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals said in its FoI response: “Three members of staff receive private medical/health insurance, as this was a contractual entitlement when they transferred to the Trust’s employment.”

Barrie Brown, the national officer for health at Unite, said: “It is astonishing that we have the NHS contracting out to the private sector health care for certain privileged categories of staff. This is public money being thrown at profit-hungry private healthcare companies.”

A spokeswoman for Nice said that it had nothing to add to the initial FoI response and could not comment on why the agency introduced the perks.

Financial Reality – The Health and Social Security budget will break us by 2020. We need to focus on duties rather than rights in healthcare..

“That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.”

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This entry was posted in A Personal View, Rationing, Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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