[Wednesday 27 July]
The Department of Health has finally woken up and sacked the mysterious ‘Special Projects Team’ that was behind the glaring advisory errors behind the collapse of the Uniting Care Partnership in Cambridgeshire following the publication of a damning report by the National Audit Office.
This is the just latest of a long line of failed projects set up under the SPT’s flawed advice. But will the DoH now ensure all other health organisations – including the CCGs – follow suit and give the SPT the wide berth it plainly deserves? Or will this unhealthy obsession with “private must be best” dogma continue to allow the likes of SPT to cause the break-up of our NHS? Keep Our NHS Public considers the use of flawed “consultancy” advice a misuse of public funds.
This is particularly important in areas like Staffordshire, where a controversial plan to privatise its cancer care services were put on hold awaiting the outcome of the NAO’s investigations.
Gail Gregory, spokesperson for Cancer Not for Profit, said:
“Last week’s NAO report clearly showed that almost every contributing cause of that failure could equally well be applied to Staffordshire’s £1.2 billion tender for Cancer and End of Life Care (CEOL). That project, along with several others (including our own), was overseen by the Strategic Projects Team (SPT), set up by the government to assist in the procurement and completion of similar headline-grabbing outsourcing projects.
“Now we see that NHS England is so concerned about the SPT’s woeful performance that it intends to close it down, which should surprise nobody after so many high-profile and costly failures.
“Circle pulled out of Hinchingbrooke, Uniting Care abandoned their contract in Cambridgeshire and Cambridge University Hospital intends to withdraw from The Pathology Project in 12 months. The George Eliot Hospital procurement did not proceed, and the Weston Hospital takeover was dropped as ‘unsustainable’. A senior manager inside one collapsed SPT project said his main issue had been their total refusal to acknowledge reality. What more damning indictment could there be?
“A glance at their record would show that nobody should place any reliance on their guidance, and it now seems that NHS England has finally seen the light. Will the CCGs do the same? Do we really want vulnerable patients and elderly residents to pay the price for the CCG refusal to acknowledge that these outsourcing contracts simply do not work?
Dr John Lister, Secretary for Keep Our NHS Public, said:
“The SPT is a sorry outfit, set up a decade ago to drive through what seemed to be trendy plans based on dogma and complete faith in the private sector. They have clearly learned nothing as they progressed from one failure to the next.
“It’s good that NHS England has finally got the message and opted to shut down the Team: but will they go further and begin a systematic re-evaluation of other costly management consultants?
“These overpaid companies are still urging NHS managers and NHS England itself to implement equally evidence-free, unproven and risky policies, with no proper assessment of what they have done.
“NHS England alone, which already employs hundreds of people paid more than the Prime Minister, spent over £35 million on management consultancy last year – the equivalent of almost 900 nurses. Let’s get NHS managers to do what they are paid for, and spend scarce NHS money on delivering patient care.”
Keep Our NHS Public was formed in 2005 and has a broad-based, public membership. There are 65 local groups, plus a national association. It has the explicit aim of countering marketisation [1,2] and privatisation of the NHS by campaigning for a publicly funded, publicly provided and publicly accountable NHS, available to all on the basis of clinical need. It is opposed to cuts in service which run counter to these principles. Further details: www.keepournhspublic.com
KONP’s Campaigns and Press Officer is Alan Taman:
07870 757 309
 Davis, J., Lister, J. and Wrigely, D. (2015) NHS For Sale. London: Merlin Press.
Leys, C. and Player, S. (2011) The Plot Against the NHS. Pontypool: Merlin
Lister, J. (2008) The NHS After 60: For Patients or Profits? London: Middlesex University Press
Owen, D. (2014) The Health of the Nation: The NHS in Peril. York: Methuen, Chapter 4.
Player, S. (2013) ‘Ready for market’. In NHS SOS ed by Davis, J. and Tallis, R. London: Oneworld, pp.38-61.
 The belief that ‘competition is always best’ does not work when applied to healthcare. A comprehensive and universal health service is best funded by public donation, which has been shown to be far more efficient overall than private-insurance healthcare models
[Davis, J., Lister, J. and Wrigley, D. (2015) NHS For Sale. London: Merlin Press. Chapters 2 and 8.
Lister, J. (2013) Health Policy Reform: global health versus private profit. Libri: Faringdon.
Pollock, A. and Price, D. (2013) In NHS SOS, ed by Davis, J. and Tallis, R. Oneworld: London, 174.]