As the government attempt to get NHS privatisation up and running even before the Health and Social Care Bill is passed, private healthcare providers are paying upwards of £60,000 for access to government ministers and senior NHS management, including ”top table places” at a dinner with Andrew Lansley.
Networking packages for the NHS Confederation conference next month offer corporations the opportunity to ”engage with health sector leaders” for a pricetag of between £48,000 and £60,000. And in promotional documents which clearly move the programme into cash-for-access territory, the highest level of sponsorship, for which no fee is quoted, explicitly guarantees private providers quarterly briefings from policy staff and meetings with NHS directors:
“Become an event partner and benefit from … two meetings at your HQ with director-level NHS Confederation representatives”
To further facilitate lobbying of NHS management and Whitehall officials, companies are even provided with advance notice of event attendance lists and “post-event access to delegate contact information”. Companies in attendance include KPMG Health, whose chief claimed the NHS would be “shown no mercy” on privatisation, and care home company Castlebeck Group, currently at the centre of an abuse scandal which saw four of its staff arrested.
The fire sale of public healthcare has begun in earnest.
And while NHS services may remain “free at the point of use” it seems access to decision makers certainly is not.