Faversham & Mid Kent: The frontline of the battle to save the NHS.
The National Health Service is the key issue in the General Election campaign: nowhere more so than in Faversham.
The Tories have imposed a top-down reorganisation of the NHS which nobody voted for. The Health and Social Care Act (2012) dismantled the Primary Care Trusts, set up Commissioning Groups, introduced the requirement to put NHS services out to tender and removed the Secretary of State’s duty to provide a National Health Service.
As a direct result of Tory reform NHS services have been moved out of Faversham to an office block near a dual carriageway outside Whitstable. This site is inaccessible by public transport. A bus service was promised. Controversially this would be paid for by taking almost £500,000 out of the health budget. However, East Kent NHS trust has not provided the bus service. The local NHS services are only accessible for those patients who can drive or afford a taxi. The privatisation and re-location of NHS services have been highly contested by Faversham residents.
In another blow to Faversham’s NHS services, the Canterbury and Coastal Commissioning Group (CCCG) proposed to close Faversham’s Minor Injuries Unit. No suitable provider tendered to run the service. At a packed public meeting we were told by the CCCG it would be illegal to allow the existing provider continue to provide the service. But apparently not. The public outcry caused a re-think, the service has continued and the contract is now out for tender again. The future of Faversham Cottage Hospital is also under threat.
At a hustings held at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Faversham on 31st March 2015, the Conservative candidate for Faversham and Mid-Kent, Helen Whatley, chose not to tell us she is a management consultant or who she works for in her opening address. As the Green Party candidate, I was on the panel and pointed that she is a management consultant working for McKinsey & Company. McKinsey is American multinational corporation, and is one of the biggest management consultants in the world. The company has been heavily involved in advising government on the Health and Social Care Act and in advising clients on the privatisation of NHS services: a clear conflict of interest. Furthermore McKinsey are notoriously secretive about their clients. In response Helen Whately acknowledged the following:
- She works as a management consultant in healthcare employed by McKinsey, although she added “they are not paying me now”.
- Ex-McKinsey staff worked with government on drafting the Health and Social Care Act (2012).
- McKinsey staff advise private companies who bid for and run NHS contracts.
- Helen Whatley expressed the view that a major problem facing the NHS is that there are not enough mangers. More are needed. However, clinical staff are reluctant to become managers.
The local Conservative Association is pouring oil on troubled waters by adopting a candidate who has been working to dismantle our National Health Service. This issue stalks Helen Whately. In 2010 she contested Kingston and Surbiton for the Conservatives:
Helen Whately, former Conservative parliamentary candidate, has shrugged off any suggestion of a conflict of interest, after it emerged she works for the same consultants helping to draw up plans which could see the A+E or maternity unit at Kingston Hospital removed. (Source.)
The Conservatives are trying to hide Helen Whately’s conflict of interest. On a page headed ‘About Helen Whately’ her website states: “For nearly a decade, she has worked with NHS hospitals, helping them improve care and make the most of resources. She has also advised healthcare regulators and commissioners, and worked on healthcare policy.” However if you go to a Q & A page the following has been added in response to questions on twitter.
You’ve said you work in healthcare, but what do you actually do?
“I’ve been working in healthcare for the last 8 years, as a consultant at McKinsey & Co. Over that time I’ve worked mainly with hospitals, but also with healthcare commissioners and regulators. My focus has been improving quality of care, particularly in hospitals, but also community services and mental healthcare. I have led several ‘hospital transformation’ programmes, where I’ve worked with staff from the CEO to frontline doctors, nurses and healthcare assistants. Some of these projects have been about the whole hospital, others have been specific services like maternity or surgery. They have all aimed to dramatically improve patient care – both in clinical outcomes terms and patient experience. I have also worked on transparency in healthcare, helping to launch two ground breaking online services giving patients and families information about the quality of local healthcare services. This is something I’d like to take further as an MP, as I think everyone should be able to find out how well their local healthcare services are doing and where there’s choice, be able to make truly informed choices.”
Helen Whately is an author of a report – ‘Transparency the most powerful driver of health care improvement?’ (Available here.) For a government set on privatisation of public services, transparency or league tables is a favourite tactic. League tables in our schools, universities and hospitals are used to undermine existing public provision and provide leverage for privatisation. Contrast Heln Whateley’s advocacy for transparency in the NHS with McKinsey’s values: “We guard client confidences”. “We don’t publicize our work for our clients.” (Source.) As a private company McKinsey is not subject to Freedom of Information. We are not allowed to know who they are advising. Do they advise Circle who have just handed back the first privatised hospital?(Source.) Do they advise Virgin Healthcare who have the structure to send profits earned from NHS contracts to an overseas tax haven? (Source.) Once privatised the companies running heath services can hide behind commercial confidentially and there is nothing we can do about it.
The Green Party’s policy is to repeal the Health and Social Care Act, re-instate a public NHS for all, and fund it properly by injecting £12bn in 2015 rising to £20bn in 2019. We will keep the NHS publicly provided and free to access. Only the Green Party is committing to keeping the profit motive out of the NHS. All other party’s will put the nation’s health up for auction. The choice for voters in Faversham and Mid Kent is very clear. On May 7th say “No” to the revolving door between government and multinational corporation’s interests. Vote Green.