The PJ Tatler

German Firm Plots Invasion of British Health Care System

Having run out of other British people’s money, the UK’s National Health System may need some German money to keep going.

A German company has been in talks to take over NHS hospitals, the first tangible evidence that foreign multinationals will be able to run state-owned acute services, a market worth £8bn, the Guardian can reveal.

On the eve of the last Commons vote on the government’s bill before it heads to the Lords this week, freedom of information requests reveal a series of meetings focused on “potential opportunities in London” between officials from the Department of Health, the NHS, the management consultant McKinsey and one of the largest German private hospital chains, Helios.

Once EU competition law applies to the health service there would be no barrier to handing over the running of NHS hospitals to non-British firms. Helios has a record of turning around failing hospitals, largely by cutting staff or wage levels. Local politicians have accused it of being motivated more by revenues than by patient care.

Coming from a system that’s become notorious for cost-cutting by making patients wait months or even years for needed procedures, that’s a bit rich.

The mere thought of privatization seems to be driving the left over the rails:

Key rebels – such as the Lib Dem MP Andrew George and John Pugh, co-chairman of the Lib Dem backbench health committee – have tabled a dozen changes to the bill, almost all seeking to roll back the “competition and choice” agenda of the health secretary, Andrew Lansley.

George calls for the restoration of the health secretary’s “duty to provide or secure” services, to elevate GPs’ duties to tackle health inequalities above those that promote choice, remove “all references to promoting competition directly or indirectly” from the remit of the regulator Monitor and to keep the cap limiting the proportion of total income hospitals can earn from the paying sick.

George said: “We are on the slippery slope in the direction of a US-style insurance system and have to stop patient choice being used a crowbar to lever in the marketisation of the NHS.”

They’re slip-sliding our way, and with ObamaCare we’re slip-sliding theirs. At least the British could, possibly, have better care to look forward to.