Taking on NHS privatisation across the country – We Own It


“The Health & Care bill absolutely drives our NHS further down the route of NHS privatisation.”

We Own It

We interviewed Johnbosco Nwogbo of We Own It about their new ‘Find your NHS’ tool:

From the 1st of July 2022, the NHS in England will be reorganised. England will be divided into 42 new local NHS bodies called Integrated Care Systems (ICS). What does this mean for people, including in terms of the NHS privatisation agenda?

The bill changes two main things about the way the NHS is currently run in each local area. 

First, whereas decisions about what NHS services will be available, who provides those NHS services and, in many cases, who can receive NHS services in each local area (each local NHS area is currently called a Clinical Commissioning Group or a CCG) are currently made by a body made up mostly of clinicians and NHS administrators, the Health and Care Bill will reorganise the NHS to combine the areas currently overseen by many CCGs. 

The new local NHS areas will be called Integrated Care Systems or ICSs and they will be led by a board of directors. Despite the government’s pretensions to the contrary, the Bill doesn’t rule out people who work for private companies or who have a financial interest in private companies sitting on these boards. 

In fact we have just found that the designated chair of the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes ICS is an executive at a private healthcare company called Queen Square Enterprises. 

In another example, Bath and North East Somerset, Wiltshire and Swindon ICS has Virgin care on their official board of directors. After some pressure from us, the designated chair has come out and pledged that nobody who works for or has an interest in private companies will sit on the official board. 

This is clearly a problem. It looks and smells really rotten. People who have a financial interest in the decisions that the board will be making should never be allowed to be members of the board.   

Second, the bill will scrap the requirement to put NHS contracts for service through a competitive tendering process that can and often does involve private companies. Now, this is not such a bad thing if you replace that with a new rule that makes the NHS the default provider of all NHS services. Without making the NHS the default provider, scraping competitive tendering just opens the door to contracts being handed out to private companies without transparency. 

And there is a real prospect that this is the plan. Something called Provider Collaboratives are being introduced. They are bodies made up of NHS providers, including private companies and NHS England guidance to local NHS bodies on implementing the Health and Care Bill suggests that Provider Collaboratives will be making decisions on who will provide some NHS services. 

All told, the Health and Care bill absolutely drives our NHS further down the route of NHS privatisation. In our latest polling, 76% of the public say that they want NHS privatisation ended. The government is pushing ahead with their quest to deepen NHS privatisation despite public opposition.

Can you tell us a bit more on why you have launched the ‘Find Your NHS’ tool?

We have launched the tool for 3 main reasons.

First, much of this reorganisation has been carried out in secret. Last month we wrote to all 42 new unofficial ICSs to ask if they plan on consulting local people on the direction they want their NHS to go in. The vast majority of those that responded said they weren’t required to do so by the government. 

As a consequence, people don’t know what ICSs are, which ICS they are part of or who leads the ICS they are part of. Find My NHS shows people that. All they need to do is enter their postcode. 

The second reason is that we wanted to create a tool that makes taking action and having some impact in the fight against NHS privatisation in your local area a very simple and straightforward affair. People are busy with life and find it difficult to find the time to take action on an issue the majority of us clearly care about. This tool makes it easy to get involved in just a few clicks.

And lastly, to really have an impact, we need volume. It makes a difference if 1000 people contact local NHS leaders in one local area instead of 50 or 100. Sometimes local NHS leaders just need to be shown the amount of public interest there is on the issue. They often think that the anti-privatisation is just a preoccupation of a few local campaigners that go to every meeting. They expect that the public doesn’t care. Volume shows them people care. The tool allows lots of people who care but who can’t make time to attend meetings or do other things to still have an impact on the fight. 

Over the first 24 hours of launching the tool almost 10,000 people have already used the tool to email their local NHS leaders.

We really believe that the reorganisation of the NHS provides local people across England an opportunity to demand that local NHS leaders use this opportunity to reset the direction of travel in their local NHS. Instead of continuing to go full steam toward privatisation, they must refocus on the needs of local people and rebuilding the NHS.

Across the country, literally thousands of people are opposing NHS privatisation and outsourcing in their local area – can you give us a few examples of key campaigns currently going on?

Local Keep Our NHS Public or Save Our NHS campaigners right across England have been campaigning in some cases for years in quite lowkey but often highly effective ways to push back privatisation in their areas. In most cases, the work is slow and a slog but really worth it. 

They go to meetings and ask questions, read hundreds of pages of documents from the NHS and make Freedom of Information requests from which they unearth and expose privatisation moves made by the government. It is not photogenic work but it is incredible work. 

It would be hard to mention any specific, but KONP groups have recently worked with us to successfully push back against the takeover of GP surgeries in Islington and Hammersmith by Centene, an American multinational healthcare company. In both cases Centene’s contract was renewed for a much shorter timeframe than was initially suggested.

The Save Our NHS group in Bath and North East Somerset has been working recently to get the Virgin Care social care contract in their area scrapped after Virgin Care was sold to a private equity firm called Twenty20. 

Our campaign aims to compliment their work and get more people involved.

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