The Times has reported that the Conservative health team is being funded by the wife of the chairman of one of Britain’s largest private hospital companies. Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley received £21,000 in November from Caroline Nash, wife of John Nash, the chairman of Care UK.
Care UK runs a network of GP practices, NHS walk-in centres, out-of-hours services and NHS treatment centres. The company admits that 96% of its business (more than £400m last year) came from work for the NHS. It’s obviously money well spent. The Tories have promised to make it easier for private providers to perform more NHS work.
Mrs Nash is a regular Tory donor; she and her husband have given a further £107,000 since 2006. He was the founder, in 1988, of the private equity fund Sovereign Capital, which owns several healthcare companies, as well as the independent schools group Alpha Plus.
Meanwhile the health publication Pulse reports that the Conservatives have opened talks with a series of private firms after pledging to step up the role of the independent sector in the NHS. Talks are ongoing with ‘a wide range’ of providers from the private and voluntary sectors, as part of moves to create a ‘more competitive’ NHS marketplace should the Tories win the election.
A draft health manifesto, unveiled by leader David Cameron, confirmed plans for GPs to take control of real commissioning budgets, which could see practices working in partnership with private firms. It states a Conservative government would ‘open up the NHS to include new independent and voluntary sector providers’, which would be allowed to compete on a level footing with NHS providers.