Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Comrade Private Healthcare

I was knackered this morning - insufficient sleep. I put on the "Today" programme and heard a familiar, irritating, high-pitched voice. No, it wasn't Sarah Montague laughing; it was someone going on about private "healt'care". I recognised the voice. It was Comrade Ali Parsa, the founder of and managing partner in Circle Health, crowing at the prospect of the Tories' NHS revolution announced today.

(I think I wrote about him once before on the blog, but can't find the post now.)

Circle Health is a private company, small but getting bigger, taking over and running "failing" NHS facilities as well as buildings its own private hospitals. It will probably get the contract in February to run Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon. The picture at the top of this post is of the, alas unsuccessful, protest organised by Cambridgeshire Against the Cuts in the summer against the plan to get a private company to run Hinchingbrooke.

What particularly irks me about Ali's "success" is his cynicism. In a Times interview he gave last March, he joked about his career in student politics, first at UCL and then in the National Union of Students.
He was an independent, finding the Labour group too “Stalinist”.
What a laugh! Ali's hero was Gorbachev.

Circle Health make a big thing about how they value the input of all their staff. But half the company is owned by a fairly small number of private individuals, including Mr Parsa.
He recalls taking over a failing treatment centre in the north of England, after a coroner’s inquest. Circle’s strategy to galvanise the staff was to have meetings in which all of them, from consultants to cleaners, were asked a series of questions. What is wrong? Why is it wrong? What needs to be done to put it right?

“At the end of one of these sessions, a cleaner was almost in tears. I asked her what was the matter. She said: ‘I have been a cleaner in this hospital for 20 years. This is the first time I sat next to a consultant, working together.’ Think about it — this is hugely hierarchical.”
Correct, Ali. And I bet the consultant loved it... But tell me, Ali, when are you going to stop paying the cleaner peanuts? After all, that's how you'll make your money.

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