Neil O’Brien: why has he been allowed to work in a government department that hands out contracts to his wife’s firm?
Here’s another Tory conflict of interest – and it’s nepotism again, too.
Like prime minister Rishi Sunak, the Conservative minister for Primary Health Care – Neil O’Brien – is married to a woman with an interest in a private firm that receives government contracts.
His wife Jemma is GP engagement lead at Circle Health, which receives public money from the Tories to perform operations at its 54 private hospitals (Circle was the first private health firm to take over an NHS hospital).
Tory Neil O'Brien MP Minister for Primary Health Care on TV today Guess what?
HIS WIFE has top job in private healthcare Circle Health Group, 54 private hospitals "have your NHS treatment at one of our hospitals….all costs will be covered by the NHS" RThttps://t.co/i3hTydvF0k
What is this man doing in a government department that may hand contracts to a company where his wife works?
It’s a clear conflict of interest.
And it’s actually a miracle that we’ve found out about it from the new MPs’ register of interests, that has attracted ridicule for failing to list all of the businesses that are at least part-owned by Sunak’s wife Akshata Murty.
From the Mirror article:
Mr Sunak has been accused of a “complete lack of transparency” over his own wife’s investments.
The list of interests did not include details of the shareholdings owned by his heiress wife, Akshata Murty.
Under the section for relevant interests held by a spouse or close relative, Mr Sunak’s entry included his wife’s venture capital company Catamaran Ventures and unnamed “direct shareholdings”.
A footnote adds that these include her “minority shareholding” in Koru Kids, but no details were given for any of her other shareholdings.
Farcically, the list did not include her £468million stake in Infosys, the Indian IT firm founded by her billionaire father.
And Infosys get government contracts, of course.
Vox Political needs your help! If you want to support this site
(but don’t want to give your money to advertisers) you can make a one-off donation here:
Be among the first to know what’s going on! Here are the ways to manage it:
1) Register with us by clicking on ‘Subscribe’ (in the right margin). You can then receive notifications of every new article that is posted here.
Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt are the Tory fools who have created the crisis in the English NHS. Tell them they are to blame. Tell them they should resign now.
The more I think about the unreasonable comments and demands made by Theresa May and her health secretary Jeremy Hunt, the less acceptable they seem.
We are told senior GPs could resign in huge numbers because Mrs May has irrationally chosen to scapegoat them for the humanitarian crisis sweeping the National Health Service in England. But why should they?
Surely we can all see where responsibility really lies?
The Conservatives aren’t responsible for the NHS in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – and those countries aren’t experiencing any crisis – except possibly where their services are reliant on facilities based in England.
The Conservatives are responsible for the NHS in England, and it is in England that the crisis has occurred.
Therefore Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt are responsible for causing the current crisis; so Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt should resign.
Why are high-profile politicians and medical leaders not already demanding their heads on a plate?
Theresa May seems keen to blame anybody but herself – she tried to pin the crisis on the elderly before claiming that A&E departments are buckling because she thinks GPs are lazy.
Enough is enough.
Whenever Mrs May, Mr Hunt or any other Tory (with the exception of Dr Sarah Wollaston, who has spoken up for the NHS, thereby proving she is in the wrong political party altogether) tries to run down the NHS, its doctors, nurses, specialists, workers or users, let’s just tell them:
“No. You are to blame. Resign.”
It’s a simple message, and easy to repeat.
Put it out there a few times and even our Tory-loving mass media might get the hang of it.
“Let’s not rewrite history,” said NHS England chief Simon Stevens – but Theresa May has tried to do exactly that.
She knows perfectly well that he said the NHS in England would need between £8 billion and £21 billion in order to sustain the service up to 2020.
Her claim that, by giving the service £10 billion over six years, she is providing more than was requested is a lie.
That’s £8.4 billion over five years – the absolute lowest end of the scale presented by Mr Stevens.
It takes no account of cuts to social care, closed walk-in centres, closed pharmacies, limited availability of GP appointments – all caused by Tory mismanagement.
More money than the NHS requested would be at least £22 billion.
And the fact is that Tory cuts to the English health service will amount to nearly £40 billion – including the extra £8.4 billion – by 2020.
Theresa May is a liar and should resign because her lies are threatening people’s lives. Jeremy Hunt is a liar and should resign for the same reason.
The claim: The NHS is being given more money than it asked for.
Reality Check verdict: The amount that the NHS in England is being given over this Parliament is at the bottom end of the range that it asked for. It doesn’t take into account the knock-on effects of shortfalls in other areas such as social care.
“We asked the NHS to work out what it needed over the next five years in terms of… the funding it would need,” Prime Minister Theresa May told Sky News on Sunday.
“We gave them more funding then they required.”
But NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens denied this on Wednesday.
Mr Stevens has made clear that when he mentioned the £8bn figure, that was the minimum amount needed just to plug the funding gap.
But this figure is not enough to keep pace with rising demand, improve services or accommodate plans for seven-day services.
Speaking to NHS leaders last June, he said: “Let’s not rewrite history.
“In the Forward View, we actually said that the National Health Service would need between £8bn and £21bn by 2020 in order to sustain and improve.”
Even as the UK erupts in protest at the government’s neglect of the NHS, the Tory privatisation plan is working, it seems.
The crisis has created a perception that the public health service is unable to cope. Private firms can capitalise on this – and don’t forget that more private contracts are being offered up for NHS work, every day. Here’s the latest:
In the middle of an NHS Crisis, the Tories are still offering chunks of your NHS to private health. This for exmaple https://t.co/AdpD4hagsC
It’s for an ‘integrated urgent care service’ (whatever that may be), offered by Kernow CCG (in Cornwall?) and is worth nearly £50 million.
It should be remembered that private healthcare will not offer treatment for the most complicated, long-term conditions; the people who need it most. Instead, they take contracts that draw funding away from their treatment.
And the ‘crisis’ narrative gains momentum – but it lacks one major element.
The only reason there is a humanitarian crisis in the NHS is underfunding by the Conservative Party in government. They will have inflicted nearly £40 billion of cuts by 2020, and have already passed on around £20 billion of funding to private companies, much of which will be transferred to shareholders’ bank accounts as profit, rather than having anything to do with treatment of illness.
The bureaucratic cost of private involvement alone is astronomical.
Yet Theresa May tried to blame the crisis on the increase of elderly patients, in Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
In fact, decades of ward closures have led to the bed crisis. Bed-to-population ratios are worse than in some eastern European countries. Funding of the NHS, in total, is well below the EU average. But Mrs May keeps rattling on about a “strong economy” being the answer. Didn’t Philip Hammond say our economy is the strongest in the developed world, during his Autumn Statement last year? Yes, he did.
I am sick of hearing Tories say a strong economy will help the NHS. Utter nonsense. It needs funding to the EU average @DLidington#bbcqt
Simon Stevens holds up a copy of the Daily Mail at a public accounts committee meeting focusing on the crisis in the health service [Image: Parliament TV].
The crisis in the English National Health Service is deepening while Tories, led by Theresa May, quibble over the amount of money it is getting.
Mrs May told Sky News on Sunday that, “when the government had asked the NHS what it needed for the next five years, it had been given ‘more funding’ than ‘required’.”
But Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, denied this point-blank in evidence to the Commons Public Accounts Committee yesterday (Wednesday).
Ministers had said NHS England had requested £8bn and been allocated £10bn. But Mr Stevens told MPs that was to cover six years rather than the five-year plan he had put forward.
“I don’t think that’s the same as saying we are getting more than we asked for over five years.”
He also held up a copy of a Daily Mail report showing that health spending in England is much lower than in other European countries.
In any case, as This Site has pointed out – £10 billion won’t cancel out the £20 billion of cuts inflicted over the last few years – or the £22 billion consigned to private healthcare firms that Conservatives have invited to raid the NHS for lucrative contracts, and the bureaucracy associated with it. Mr Stevens described cuts to capital expenditure as “robbing Paul to pay Paul”.
In many cases, the companies gaining from NHS contracts – which turn public money into profits for their shareholders – had financial links to Conservative politicians. It doesn’t take a lot of detective work to understand that the introduction of private companies into the NHS was about enriching these Conservatives rather than improving health outcomes.
Former Conservative Health Secretary Steven Dorrell has supported Mr Stevens’ comments, and said the government “should be addressing the evidence about what is happening on the ground rather than engaging in a rather high-profile discussion about, frankly, what sound to the public like telephone numbers of public expenditure”.
In other words, the NHS needs action, not pointless arguments.
Meanwhile, more than 20 hospitals in England have had to declare a black alert this week after becoming so overcrowded that they could no longer guarantee patient safety and provide their full range of normal services.
A black alert is defined as as a “serious incident”. It means the system is under severe pressure and is unable to deliver certain actions and comprehensive emergency care.
At least 23 hospital trusts have declared they cannot cope since Monday. Theresa May described this, at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, as “extra pressures on the NHS”. Do you think that is a fair description?
Labour MP Toby Perkins – whose father reportedly died in his arms after being mistakenly sent home during the last major NHS crisis in July last year – might take a different view.
Remember the NHS crisis last July? Nor do I. Apparently everybody was too busy to notice, as they were being whipped up against junior doctors, who were threatening industrial action over the danger to patients posed by a new contract introduced by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Hunt’s contract, which he later forced on junior doctors in spite of their concerns, demanded more work from them in conditions that were less safe. And here we are.
Do we believe Mrs May, who has lied about more money going into the NHS? Or Mr Hunt, who forced an unsafe contract on junior doctors that has almost certainly contributed to the current crisis?
Or do we believe junior doctor Rachel Clarke, who has made it absolutely clear that she believes the Conservatives are covering up the crisis and putting savings before safety.
She writes: “First-hand testimony from frontline doctors backs up the scale of the crisis, depicting almost unimaginable conditions of squalor and indignity up and down the country. “It’s an absolute war zone” said one junior doctor, “completely out of control” said another.
“Hunt’s denial of frontline reality has left doctors like me feeling utterly terrified for our patients. Two deaths on trolleys are two too many.
“Just how many more are required before the Government acts?”
I asked much the same question, days ago, after it was revealed the Red Cross had stepped in and called this a “humanitarian crisis”.
Dr Clarke writes: “Hunt condemned the ‘times when it might feel easier to conceal mistakes, to deny that things have gone wrong and to slide into postures of institutional defensiveness’, vowing instead to foster ‘a climate of openness, where staff are supported to do the right thing and where we put people first at all times.'”
“So why, at this time of crisis for NHS patients, has the Government spin machine cranked into overdrive, denying the seriousness of doctors’ concerns and promising the public that all is well? That is the precise opposite of what the nation was promised,” writes Dr Clarke.
“Everyone who works in the NHS has a duty of candour, and no Health Secretary should be exempt from that. If Hunt really cares about patients, then when frontline staff are clamouring to warn of crisis conditions that we know are costing lives, he owes it to patients to listen.”
Well, here’s a possibility: Perhaps Mrs May and Mr Hunt are holding on because they know their job is nearly finished. With NHS trusts facing a 21 per cent increase in tax next April – thanks to Tory changes – and the healthcare it provides in crisis – thanks to Tory changes – perhaps they think they only have to wait a while before being able to claim the NHS has had its day and it is time for an expensive private insurance system to take over – meaning more profit for them.
Theresa May set up a blind trust arrangement when she became prime minister, allowing her to hold on to shareholdings or other investments without disclosing what they are to the public. Does she have shares in private health? It is in the public interest to know, but she has refused to surrender the facts. Why?
“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” That was the mantra when Mrs May – the same Mrs May – was pushing her Snooper’s Charter through Parliament against the will of the public. She is clearly afraid of divulging the details of her shareholdings. What does she have to hide?
He said a regular meeting of NHS chiefs discussed “at what point does public confidence in the NHS model of care, delivered free at the point of use based on clinical need not the ability to pay, come into question” – and the conclusion was that “What we are doing at the moment is not sustainable.”
One has to question this man’s attitude. Rather than fight for the NHS, he is ready to give it up – exactly as Mrs May and Mr Hunt must want.
But the people of the United Kingdom aren’t having it.
The NHS is our most precious possession – one that we know Conservatives hate and want to end. That is why we must fight them for it – all the way to the ballot box.
Theresa May and her cabinet cronies will stop at nothing to win this battle. They don’t care if your friends or relatives die on hospital trolleys after waiting unendurable times for treatment.
They don’t care that we know the NHS is only failing because they have deliberately crippled it.
They don’t care that three-quarters of the UK’s population didn’t vote for them and even most of those who did are supporters of the NHS.
They want their private system. They want their massive profits. They want to ruin your health forever, because you’ll never be able to afford their prices.
You cannot afford to lose the fight for the National Health Service.
He can run, but he can’t hide: Jeremy Hunt tries to escape a news reporter as she demands answers about the deepening crisis in the NHS – a crisis he has caused [Image: Sky News].
The following transcript from BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours is shocking – not only because it shows that Theresa May has been trying to cover up the humanitarian crisis in the English National Health Service, but because it was reported by the diligently pro-Tory BBC:
So, “Theresa May, the Prime Minister, didn’t want any of this to get out”:
That the average ambulance wait is currently 40 minutes at a major NHS trust in the north of England;
That a man who had a heart attack waited five hours on a trolley for treatment;
That patients had been shut out of the hospital;
That cancer treatments might have to be cancelled because low staffing made them unsafe;
That nursing staff had expressed concern to their unions about unsafe working practices;
That calls on the 999 emergency number may be a waste of effort.
The last point is particularly corrosive; the 999 emergency number has been a quality standard that British people have considered almost sacred since it was introduced, and now the Conservatives have rendered it useless.
And people are still being left to die on trolleys in corridors.
No wonder Theresa May – the prime minister of the United Kingdom, don’t forget – wanted to stop the public from finding out about this.
But it seems the BBC is now well and truly on the case. Having failed to kill this story over the weekend, the Corporation seems to have decided it may as well jump in with both feet, so we got the following:
Record numbers of patients are facing long waits in A&Es as documents leaked to the BBC show the full extent of the winter crisis in the NHS in England.
Nearly a quarter of patients waited longer than four hours in A&E last week, with just one hospital hitting its target.
And huge numbers also faced long waits for a bed when A&E staff admitted them into hospital as emergency cases.
There were more than 18,000 “trolley waits” of four hours or more last week.
18 thousand trolley waits of four hours or more. Wasn’t Jeremy Hunt saying there were only a “handful” of these, only yesterday?
And where was Mr Hunt, exactly?
He was filmed running away from a TV news reporter – and embarrassingly having to U-turn after heading off in the wrong direction.
After making a speech to the King’s Fund think tank, in central London, he was chased by Sky News reporter Beth Rigby, who asked him whether he was scrapping four-hour waiting times or just watering them down (to include only patients he describes as being in genuine need of A&E treatment).
He refused to answer her questions, but had to double back, as he searched for his expensive chauffeur-driven ministerial car.
It is clear that the Conservatives have no answer to the facts that are being revealed.
They are also refusing – mark that word: refusing – to do anything at all about the crisis other than to deny its existence, try to redefine national standards so they conform with that denial, and run away from the facts while people continue to suffer.
In the past, health secretaries would have resigned long before any situation reached this point.
In fact, given the magnitude of the disaster, prime ministers would have resigned as well.
Isn’t it time we told Mr Hunt and Mrs May that their services are no longer needed?
Dr David Wrigley writes: “This is a corridor in an A&E and it could be your grandma there. Gross mishandling & cuts by Tories did this.”
The Conservative Government is denying the existence of any serious problem in the English National Health Service, despite the Red Cross having announced a “humanitarian crisis”.
Red Cross chief executive Mike Adamson has made the following appeal to UK prime minister Theresa May.
The British Medical Association has stood by the Red Cross:
Mrs May has told Sky’s Sophy Ridge that her government has put more money into the NHS.
[Image: Paul Mason.]
Oh, so that’s all right then. A paltry sub-inflation increase of 0.8 per cent per year (a real-terms cut, This Writer seems to recall) means the deaths on hospital trolleys are illusory. I DON’T THINK SO.
In any case, what about all the planned cuts? See:
She said the NHS had problems due to an aging population, but “that is why the NHS has developed a plan. It is putting it into practice”.
What plan would this be? The same plan as is in practise at the Department for Work and Pensions? The plan to make people die?
She has gone on to talk about mental health, saying the issue cannot be addressed simply by throwing money at it and a strategy to address stigma is more important. Isn’t that true of any health problem? Yet with the NHS as a whole, no strategies have been launched to tackle the causes of the problems that have mounted up to create the humanitarian crisis described by the Red Cross.
I think Theresa May is lying through her teeth. There is a humanitarian crisis. There’s no extra money. And there is no plan apart from letting it run its course and allowing your relatives to die.
Shall we have a quick reminder of the Conservative Party’s recent record of achievement, with regard to the National Health Service in England? Here it is:
Meanwhile, Justine Greening told Andrew Marr it was “inappropriate” for the Red Cross to describe the situation as a humanitarian crisis, and said the charity’s involvement was “not particularly unusual”.
This of course completely ignores the obvious: If it isn’t unusual for the Red Cross to be involved, then the Red Cross will have a very good reason to describe the situation as a humanitarian crisis. And the Red Cross knows a humanitarian crisis when its members see one.
Dr David Wrigley had this to say about Ms Greening’s performance:
Complete abrogation of responsibility in govt by @JustineGreening on #Marr saying 'NHS crisis, what crisis?' 1mn NHS staff know differently
Jeremy Hunt, who is allegedly the Secretary of State for Health, has been nowhere to be found. Apparently he is hiding in Japan.
And the right-wing media? They have nothing to say:
According to Professor Ray Tallis, co-author of NHS: SOS, the book which predicted the Tory health disaster, the number of preventable winter deaths has increased by 50,000 this year. It was a high number already, last year, if This Writer recalls correctly.
I should point out, though, that the number quoted is likely to be only a fraction of the true figure, as the DWP ignored anybody who died outside a very narrow, two-week time frame.
Opinions are starting to come in from abroad. Here’s an American doctor who experienced NHS treatment, telling the Conservatives to “stop messing it up”.
The Labour Party has spoken up strongly, calling on the Conservative Government to do its job and ensure that NHS doctors and nurses can do theirs.
The response has been predictable: Widespread calls for Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation on grounds of ineffectiveness.
Trouble was, Mr Corbyn was everywhere yesterday – and has a proven track record of supporting the NHS. He visited the picket lines to support striking junior doctors last year, for example. And he delivered the following statement on the current crisis:
The response? Here it is:
Those whinging "where is Corbyn" this morning are suddenly tweeting about the FA Cup this evening now BBC report Corbyn was at NHS frontline
Apparently, some Corbyn critics were complaining that he had not brought the Tories back to Parliament yesterday (January 7) to account for their actions – until some kind souls explained to them that Parliament is in recess until tomorrow (January 9), and in any case it doesn’t sit on Saturdays.
Other critics who said he hasn’t done anything, and were then told how he has been campaigning strongly, have been characterised as responding that it doesn’t count because “he’s only whinging”. When asked what they think he should do, they tend to go very quiet.
It is good to see both right- and left-wing Labour coming together over this. See Liz Kendall’s comment on Twitter:
Absolutely right. Labour has warned about growing crisis in NHS & social care for months. May & Hunt have no idea, clue or plan. Useless. https://t.co/D0ouCrnulX
The National Health Service in England has suffered the ultimate humiliation as the Red Cross – a charity – has had to be called in to help save lives – because the grossly-underfunded service simply cannot cope any more.
It has been calculated that the NHS needs £22 billion of extra funds in order to provide anything like an adequate service – but those funds are not available.
It is no coincidence that the money handed over to private healthcare – to part-fund their shareholders’ profits – along with the administration costs that go with the part-privatised system add up to around £22 billion.
So the Conservative Government – Jeremy Hunt, Theresa May, the current cabinet, and previous ministers including David Cameron and former health secretary Andrew Lansley – have engineered this crisis and would rather pay public money, your money, into the bank accounts of shareholders in Virgin Health (for example) than use it to save people who are dying on hospital trolleys as you read these words.
The two deaths at Worcestershire Royal Hospital are only the most visible part of the NHS crisis, as members of the public made clear on Twitter:
Today is the moment in England's NHS history that we all prayed and hoped would never come. (look up)
Members of the public were keen to assign blame equally to all those who consigned the NHS in England to this fate – including the Liberal Democrats whose coalition with the Conservatives from 2010 to 2015 allowed the Health and Social Care Act, which diverted public funds into the hands of private, profit-making companies, to be passed:
The shocking truth of Tory cuts and our NHS. Let's not forget who aided and abetted them in this! Lib Dems. https://t.co/UAJMrrDqzy
The Conservative Government is responsible for the deaths that have happened – and for any further deaths. Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt might just as well have killed those people themselves. They should be brought to justice for every preventable fatality.
We, the people, need decisive action. This crisis has to end now. It is time to end the privatisation nightmare and restore responsibility to the funding and structure of our health system – before anybody else dies.
#HuntMustGo -he has failed the country and all who use the #NHS – it is shameful what he is allowing to happen
The NHS is facing a “humanitarian crisis” as hospitals and ambulance services struggle to keep up with rising demand, the British Red Cross has said, following the deaths of two patients after long waits on trolleys in hospital corridors.
Worcestershire Royal hospital launched an investigation on Friday into the deaths and did not deny reports that they had occurred after long waits on trolleys in corridors over the new year period.
On Friday, doctors’ leaders said more patients could die because of the chaos engulfing the NHS.
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.