Exposed: Capita reveals it is “targeting” NHS Direct as an outsourcing project


9:30 am - November 3rd 2010

by Ellie Mae    


      Share on Tumblr

The more attentive among you will remember this headline from August: Government confirms plan to scrap NHS Direct helpline.

The story incurred the wrath of Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, who claimed that the move acted as, “more evidence that Andrew Lansley is on a vindictive mission to break up the NHS, ruthlessly dismantling services before alternatives are in place.”

John Prescott duly leapt into action and a petition with thousands of signatures and lots of public outrage followed.

By September the backlash was significant enough to impel Andrew Lansley to backtrack. He he stated, “I have not announced plans to scrap NHS Direct. I have announced plans to phase out the NHS Direct number.”

But what was not reported was that by October, the suggestion that NHS Direct would be ‘outsourced’ had started to emerge.

And yesterday Capita, the biggest outsourcing company in the UK, confirmed in an interview with Health Service Journal that it was “targeting” NHS Direct for takeover.

Beverley Bryant, MD of Capita’s healthcare division said

The [quangos] that remain will be subject to getting the private sector involved. Running the administration of those kinds of bodies is the bread and butter of Capita’s healthcare division.

If Capita’s plans come to fruition, NHS Direct will be another on a long list of bodies that have been outsourced to the company. Its record of handling government contracts leaves a lot to be desired – it has earned the nickname ‘Crapita’ from industry insiders.

In 2006, its projects with the BBC were so unwieldy that it caused staff to strike.

In 2007, North East Lincs Council was forced to terminate its contract with Capita after escalating costs rendered it unworkable.

And in 2009, Capita was reported to the now-abolished Office of Fair Trading for allegedly overcharging schools by £75m for their IT contracts; a move it was able to make thanks to its 80% market share.

Yesterday, in a statement, the Department of Health was rather coy about its relationship with Capita, claiming – somewhat contrarily to Lansley’s statements in September – that it is “too early” to speculate on the future of NHS Direct.

However, given that Capita’s reputation is also one of cosying up to the Tory party, to the tune of £1.5m in donations in the last ten years, it would seem that the odds are stacked in its favour.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Ellie Mae is an occasional contributor. She is co-editor of New Left Project. She is on Twitter and blogs here.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Health

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


While I disagree with some of the content of this article, I have to say that the last paragraph of this article is really really silly and made me choke on my coffee!

Capita’s massive capital growth came after 1997 and its executive chairman, Rod Aldridge, was a very prominent supporter of new Labour and Tony Blair, lending and giv ing vast sums to the Labour Party – the suspicion at the time was that those links had led to its apparent preferential treatment in certain contracts and relationships between Capita and the Cabinet Office were the subject of not inconsiderable journalistic investigation. Indeed, were it not for Government contracts, Capita would still be a pretty small company …

Of course, outsourcing companies, especially big ones that depend on Government contracts, will want to get as close as they can to Government – of all parties. What is required is that there is sufficient sunlight to expose any corruption – and that was what was resisted by New Labour under the guise of ‘commercial confidentiality’ too often. I sincerely hope that my party will not make the same mistakes …

Companies like Capita tend to give money to both main parties, they just give more to the party that is likely to win the next election. It is the threat of removal of party funding from companies like Capita that gets the influence and keeps both major parties dependent on their largess.

3. George W. Potter

“to scrap NHS Direct helpline”

If you care to follow the link you will see that the government isn’t scrapping it, it’s replacing it with a 111 number. Andrew Lansley did not back track, he simply spelt out, again, to those who fell for the Labour spin on the issue, that he was replacing the number and not scrapping it.

I know it’s been hard for LibCon of late but please try and get some actual facts into your stories instead of spin.

Doing something with NHS Direct sounds sensible though. Each call cost more than a bleedin’ GP visit!

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/nhs-direct-calls-cost-taxpayer-more-than-visits-to-gp-645561.html

1.

So your point is Capita’s donations to a political party led to preferential treatment from that party..? And that negates my point how….?

Surely you are just *proving* my suggestion that giving substantial sums of money to political parties tends to get you outsourcing contracts? I don’t really care whether it’s New Labour (who I am no fan of), or the Tories doing it; the wider point is that it’s undemocratic, right?

I’m afraid you should be disappointed if you’re hoping the Tories aren’t going to repeat New Labour’s discretions in that respect. Audit Commission scrappage anyone?

And for the record, the ‘New Labour did it too’ argument holds NO weight whatsoever.

INdiscretions. In recent weeks I have lost the ability to speak English.

Ellie Mae, my point was to highlight your instinct to paint the Conservatives as in some way linked to all that is wrong in the world as the unthinkiing prejudice that it is …

Nope. My instinct is to expose disingenuousness. I am quite happy for the ed to change the word ‘Tory’ to ‘political,’ as I think you’ll find the point still stands.

There are people on this site who are members of New Labour, and who wish to defend the party, but I am not one of them. So really don’t waste your time with trying to make out they would have done / did do the same, because it’s a crap argument, which doesn’t interest me, and certainly doesn’t justify your policies. In fact, it kind of makes you worse, because it demonstrates you recognise your actions are wrong on some level.

Political tradition thought it may be, let me tell you – as a voter – that your party’s habit of blaming its predecessors is getting thoroughly boring. And since you are about to inflict the most extreme spending cuts in British history, I would divert your time to justifying them if I were you. You’ve been pretty thin on that so far.

p.s. Rydw i’n teimlo’n o uffar drwg cael ffrae efo Cymro arrall. Dwi’n ffyddlon i fy nghredoau yn cyntaf – a dwi’n angohfio sut i siarad yn Cymraeg yn dda dwi’n meddwl! 😉

Ellie, it’s not that your point (which I agree with) is negated, it’s just that it seems odd to note Capita’s relationship with the Tory party but not the Labour party. Aldridge’s £1m secret ‘loan’ was a big story in 2006; IIRC there was also a £2m donation to one of Blair’s academies.

Political tradition thought it may be, let me tell you – as a voter – that your party’s habit of blaming its predecessors is getting thoroughly boring.

I’m afraid you really will have to get used to it. We’re less than six months into the new Parliament – Labour last I heard were still blaming Thatcher for the rise in housing benefit payments, and she left office 20 years ago. On that basis the Tories will still be referring to the woeful economic management of Gordon Brown in 2030.

8

I just said ‘Tory’ because the Tory party is in power, and will therefore make the decision. Capita’s relationship to New Labour seems irrelevant to this story, as NL has no say over the future of NHS Direct.

9

Nice use of the ‘but Labour do it too’ argument there. Please refer to the second para of my post at 7, changing the use of the phrase ‘your’ to reflect the fact that you are not a Tory MP. I presume.

Right that’s all I can manage for the mo, got stuff to do.

9 – prediction rather than endorsement.

That said, it would be absurd for the Government to act as if May 7th was a sort of tabula rasa, and that the actions and legacy of the previous 13 years have no impact whatsoever on current politics.

I just said ‘Tory’ because the Tory party is in power, and will therefore make the decision. Capita’s relationship to New Labour seems irrelevant to this story, as NL has no say over the future of NHS Direct.

On the contrary, its previous public sector contracts helped grow and entrench in a position to win future public sector contracts; there aren’t many companies believed to be competent and large enough to run these multi-, multi-million pound contracts.

Again, though, this doesn’t negate your point about the relationships between donors and political parties.

So is this post against Capita (I feeling I vaguely endorse without any real reason apart from the fact I doubt they actually seem to have private sector expertise, since they almost entirely deal with the public sector).

Or is it concern about the possible privitisation of NHS Direct services? Because I notice that there is no link (in an otherwise exemplary example of providing sources) to the key link phrase:

But what was not reported was that by October, the suggestion that NHS Direct would be ‘outsourced’ had started to emerge.

This evidence is needed to support the connection between the story (slightly mistold through Labour spin – which was then retold through Conservative spin in the first comment, which may allow a balanced reading (or a very dizzy one)) of government intentions towards NHS direct and Capita’s desire to run this. It is a logical assumption, but if the suggestion had emerged that NHS direct would be outsourced, where did this emerge and what credibility does this have? At the moment I cannot, for example, disregard the possibility that Capita floated the suggestion, as they would like to benefit from it.

15. Alison Charlton

Cumbrian County Council has just moved it’s pension scheme from Capita – to save money. http://bit.ly/bMr8tg

According to Michael Gove, the reason the government is outsourcing a ‘quango’ like NHS Direct is not to save money, it is to make it more accountable.

16. Alison Charlton

In fact Cumbria are planning to insource payroll, HR and IT contracts currently with Capita, when their 10 year ‘strategic partnership’ runs out in January.

So is this post against Capita (I feeling I vaguely endorse without any real reason apart from the fact I doubt they actually seem to have private sector expertise, since they almost entirely deal with the public sector).

[sic]

Capita specialise in extracting huge amounts of taxpayers money from the public sector in return for projects which don’t bloody work, if they’re ever delivered at all. They make all the “benefit scroungers” look like the rank amateurs they are.

Funny how people who are only too happy to harp on about how terrible the layabouts on the dole are and how their benefits encourage a life of indolence and sloth suddenly come over all coy when it’s a corporate behemoth sucking billions from the public teat. Benefit dependency affects corporations too! They need sterner discipline to stiffen their backbones so that they can make their own way in the world, not these soft-option contracts which pay them whether they deliver or not.

And don’t get me started about bloody Serco…

Dunc,

That’s the thing when governments control so much money – they create dependents (maybe some on welfare, but plenty in terms of charities and companies that come to rely on the money from government). Outsourcing may not be evil (feel free to differ) – but outsourcing to companies that exist only to provide outsourcing is hardly drawing on the private sector.

I’d personally be inclined to require any company bidding for a government contract to either be able to show over half their business was not government sponsored or that they held only a small number of other such contracts. You could justify this by the need for competition to ensure that you actually get results from the private sector companies – the same small number of companies dividing up the pot amongst themselves doesn’t work (hang on, aren’t drug references meant to be on another thread 🙂 ). I assume a left-wing justification could easily be produced also.

12

I wanted to make explicit the relationship between the Tory Party and Capita, so that the influences behind the decision (or possible decision) become clear. Having said that, your point is a fair and relevant one, and I’d be happy for the word Tory to be amended to political.

13

From this, which I’d read earlier and had stuck in my mind: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/29d06412-dd4e-11df-9236-00144feabdc0,dwp_uuid=6c86a526-d77e-11df-8582-00144feabdc0.html

Also the info about donations to the Tory Party was from Private Eye, issue 1269, p.5. I couldn’t link it as it’s not available online.

Whoops 11

O I C

Apologies. And you’re right re your other point, but my problem is with political parties using their predecessors as a way of justifying unpopular policies – and the incumbent government is proving to be expert at that.

You are right to say NL was too.

Be fair. Wasn’t Rod Aldridge, founder of Capita, forced to resign his position after it was revealed he’d made a secret £1M loan to the Labour Party ?

That, of course, was when Labour were in power. Any company which gets a lot of business from government (and might want to get more) is always going to cosy up as best it can to whichever party holds power (or is likely to attain it soon). That, alas, is the way of the world – and to tackle that you’d have to do something about Original Sin.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Exposed: Capita reveals it is "targeting" NHS Direct as an outsourcing project http://bit.ly/azOmPw

  2. Brit Lefit

    RT @libcon: #Exposed: #Capita reveals it is "targeting" #NHS Direct as an #outsourcing project http://bit.ly/azOmPw

  3. Jonathan Davis

    RT @libcon: Exposed: Capita reveals it is "targeting" NHS Direct as an outsourcing project http://bit.ly/azOmPw

  4. Ellie Mae

    RT @libcon: Exposed: Capita reveals it is "targeting" NHS Direct as an outsourcing project http://bit.ly/azOmPw

  5. Graham Mumford

    http://tinyurl.com/34bt4dl can't get worked up about scrapping NHS direct. the most useless stupid non-service that ever was

  6. yorkierosie

    RT @libcon: Exposed: Capita reveals it is "targeting" NHS Direct as an outsourcing project http://bit.ly/azOmPw

  7. Martin McIvor

    RT @libcon: Exposed: Capita reveals it is "targeting" NHS Direct as an outsourcing project http://bit.ly/azOmPw

  8. Melissa Nicole Harry

    RT @libcon: Exposed: Capita reveals it is "targeting" NHS Direct as an outsourcing project http://bit.ly/azOmPw

  9. Angela Pateman

    Important please read: RT @libcon: Exposed: Capita reveals it is "targeting" NHS Direct as an outsourcing project http://bit.ly/azOmPw

  10. Nick H.

    RT @libcon: Exposed: Capita reveals it is "targeting" NHS Direct as an outsourcing project http://bit.ly/azOmPw

  11. Andy Sutherland

    RT @libcon: Exposed: Capita reveals it is "targeting" NHS Direct as an outsourcing project http://bit.ly/azOmPw

  12. Wendy Maddox

    Exposed: Capita reveals it is “targeting” NHS Direct as an outsourcing project | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/9VGMAnG via @libcon

  13. Wendy Maddox

    RT @libcon: Exposed: Capita reveals it is "targeting" NHS Direct as an outsourcing project http://bit.ly/azOmPw

  14. Jack Stone

    Exposed: Capita reveals it is “targeting” NHS Direct as an outsourcing project | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/11bepXD

  15. Staffordshire UNISON

    RT @MsWigsy: Exposed: Capita reveals it is “targeting” NHS Direct as an outsourcing project | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/9VGMAnG via …

  16. sunny hundal

    More evidence the government will eventually outsource NHS Direct, says @missEllieMae http://t.co/zMCh9Ul

  17. Ellie Mae

    RT @sunny_hundal: More evidence the government will eventually outsource NHS Direct, says @missEllieMae http://t.co/zMCh9Ul << sho nuff I do

  18. Rachel Hardy

    RT @MissEllieMae: RT @sunny_hundal: More evidence the government will eventually outsource NHS Direct, says @missEllieMae http://t.co/zMCh9Ul << sho nuff I do

  19. Wendy Maddox

    RT @sunny_hundal: More evidence the government will eventually outsource NHS Direct, says @missEllieMae http://t.co/zMCh9Ul

  20. Nick H.

    Exposed: Capita reveals it is “targeting” NHS Direct as an outsourcing project | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/jVi2E7X via @libcon

  21. TeresaMary

    Dont forget the rest of govt plans! Exposed: Capita“targeting” NHS Direct as an outsourcing project @LibCon http://t.co/zzI0IGu via @libcon

  22. Richard Blogger

    @paulstpancras well NHS Direct is a Foundation Trust, so you mean 111? @libcon suggest Crapita http://j.mp/asX46P but GPs will have choice

  23. Hazico_Jo

    Exposed: Capita reveals it is “targeting” NHS Direct as an outsourcing project | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/GTyLDGo via @libcon

  24. Worried about NHS being privatised? You should be | Liberal Conspiracy

    […] not so stupid. Lansley, Cameron et al know that you don’t privatise the NHS: you liberate here, you outsource there, until the groundwork is laid to such an extent that one of the biggest milestones of […]





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.