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Johnson Threatened to Strip Local Funding While Deprivation Surged

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/01/2022 - 2:27am in

Johnson Threatened to Strip Local FundingWhile Deprivation Surged

The Prime Minister used the vulnerable and the impoverished, already suffering due to the pandemic, as pawns in his self-preservation strategy, notes Sam Bright


Boris Johnson’s Government is being accused of blackmailing MPs critical of the Prime Minister, by threatening to withdraw funding to their constituencies.

Johnson’s regime is teetering on the brink of collapse, following revelations that more than a dozen parties were held in Downing Street and other Government departments during COVID-19 lockdown periods in 2020 and 2021 – with the knowledge and even the participation of the Prime Minister.

This has resulted in harsh criticism from Conservative MPs – who have seen the standing of their party drop rapidly in the polls – and the defection of one MP, Christian Wakeford of Bury South, to the Labour Party.

However, in an effort to quell the rebellion, it appears as though Government whips – the MPs who enforce party discipline – have been resorting to extreme measures. This morning, William Wragg, who chairs the House of Commons Public Administration Committee, said that the whips “were threatening to withdraw investments for Members of Parliament’s constituencies which are funded from the public purse”.

He added that Downing Street and ministers had also been “encouraging the publication of stories in the press, seeking to embarrass those who they suspect of lacking confidence in the Prime Minister”. Any MP facing “intimidation” from Johnson’s Government should report the offending party to the police, Wragg said.

A Portrait of Broken Britain
Sam Bright

In effect, therefore, Johnson’s Government has been threatening to punish those who rely on public services – commonly the poor, elderly and vulnerable – in order to protect the Prime Minister from the aftershocks of his lockdown-breaking exploits. Many of Johnson’s fiercest internal critics represent ‘Red Wall’ seats – former industrial constituencies in the north of England, the midlands and north Wales – that display higher levels of deprivation and a greater reliance on public services.

LBC Westminster Correspondent Ben Kentish has claimed that the Government also threatened to withdraw local funding to Conservative rebels in October 2020, when England footballer Marcus Rashford was lobbying the Government to extend the free school meals scheme provided to disadvantaged children.

Wakeford has confirmed these stories, claiming that the whips threatened to deprive his constituency of a new school, if he voted against the Government. “I was threatened that I would not get the new school for Radcliffe if I didn’t vote in one particular way. This is a town that’s not had a high school for the best part of 10 years,” the new Labour MP told journalists today.

This is even more shocking in the context of rising levels of deprivation and inequality in Britain, as a result of the economic downturn suffered during the pandemic.

For example, as of this month, 20.8% of all pupils in England are eligible for free school meals – up from 17.3% last year, an increase of more than 20%. As a result, 1.74 million pupils can now claim free school meals in England. A staggering 39% of secondary school children were eligible for free school meals in Blackpool according to 2020-21 data, compared with 25.6% in 2011/12.



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A similar trend has also been witnessed in relation to the distribution of emergency food parcels. The Trussell Trust, which runs the largest network of food banks in the UK, distributed 32% more emergency food parcels in 2020/21 than in 2019/2020. Some 1.9 million food parcels were distributed in 2019/2020 (723,000 of these to children), compared with 2.5 million on 2020/21 (980,000 to children). Overall, there was also a 62% increase in food bank usage from 2017-18 to 2020-21.

And although statistics on child poverty during the pandemic are yet to be released, the trend has been heading in the wrong direction for some time. In 2019-20, 31% of children in the UK were in poverty, rising from 27% in 2010-11. Overall poverty also stood at 22% in the UK prior to the pandemic. Further data is due to be released in March this year.

The pandemic has also placed extreme pressure on the NHS, that has been struggling to cope with dramatic surges of COVID-19 cases, while attempting to ensure that people are treated for other serious diseases. In the first year of the pandemic, from February 2020 to May 2021, the number of people waiting for NHS treatment in England grew by a fifth, from 4.4 million to 5.3 million.

As has been highlighted by a recent paper in the Lancet health journal, health outcomes are profoundly worse in more deprived parts of the country. Men in parts of Blackpool are, for example, expected to live for 68.3 years, compared to 95.3 years in some areas of Kensington and Chelsea in London.

This all stands in the context of the Government’s flagship ‘levelling up’ fund – dedicated to neglected parts of the country – promising just £1.25 billion to areas that have lost £25.5 billion in spending power since 2010.

Additional reporting by Sascha Lavin




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Sajid Javid Signs Off £1 Billion Private Health Windfall as MPs Sound Alarm

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 14/01/2022 - 11:47pm in

Sajid Javid Signs Off £1 Billion Private Health WindfallAs MPs Sound Alarm

The Health and Social Care Secretary has agreed an ‘insurance policy’ with private providers, in breach of Treasury spending guidelines, reports David Hencke


Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid has authorised a £1 billion windfall payment to 150 private hospitals without them having to provide a single operation to the NHS.

Details of the windfall were released on Wednesday while the Prime Minister was apologising to Parliament and facing resignation calls after admitting that he had attended Downing Street parties during lockdown.

The disclosure of the windfall caused a furore among senior Labour and Conservative MPs on the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, who were told about the payment just as the committee was meeting to discuss the pandemic.

The payments – at a rate of between £75 million and £90 million a month – are merely to ensure that private hospitals agree to put beds on standby in case the current Omicron pandemic gets out of hand or a new COVID pandemic emerges. The hospitals do not have to provide any services. If the beds are used, payments rise to £175 million a month.

Amanda Pritchard, the new chief executive of NHS England, demanded that Javid issue a ministerial direction to authorise the money, given that it broke standard Whitehall spending rules. Pritchard would have refused to authorise the spending otherwise.


Such a process automatically triggers the publication of her letter – while the National Audit Office, Parliament’s independent financial watchdog, and the Public Accounts Committee also have to be informed.

In her letter to Javid, Pritchard said: “The independent sector is not typically used for medical bed capacity and its staffing model does not easily support significant 7/7 staffed bed capacity. It is therefore not possible to be sure what additional effective medical bed capacity would be available… we assume that core NHS staff will be fully stretched.”

She added that: “The ISPs [independent sector providers] that have indicated their ability and willingness to enter into the required arrangements to provide for surge capacity could provide around 5,600 physical beds in surge if required. It is estimated that approximately 2,000 to 3,000 of these beds could be staffed (subject to staff absence levels) but the ISPs cannot confirm this to us.”

Pritchard also warned that the money provided to independent providers is “significantly more expensive than the equivalent cost of an NHS site [on a per-bed basis] with much less certainty on the potential staffed capacity.

“There are also logistical challenges that need to be surmounted to facilitate the transfer and care of patients between NHS systems and around 150 IS sites across England.”

Javid has defended breaking Treasury spending guidelines, saying that the pressures faced by the NHS supersede value for money considerations.

NHS Privatisation Represents thePillaging of OurNational Inheritance
Rachel Morris

However, both the chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Labour MP Meg Hillier, and her Conservative deputy, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, were furious about having not been informed about this decision sooner.

Quizzing Sir Chris Wormald, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Health and Social Care, Clifton-Brown made his scepticism clear.

“I do not have the papers in front of me as they only just emerged this afternoon, but as I understood it from what the chair was asking, the NHS has contracted with the private sector for £75 million a month – that is £1 billion a year – before a single service is even given by the private sector. That sounds like a very expensive insurance policy, doesn’t it?” he asked, rhetorically.

Hillier, meanwhile, asked why plans had not already been formulated for NHS bed capacity in the event of a new variant, and why the Government had been forced to rush to the private sector.

“When compared with the costs that the economy and society have been asked to pay over the period of COVID, it is a very small amount indeed,” Wormald said. “It is of course a significant sum of money, but I think you correctly identify it as an insurance payment.”




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NHS Privatisation Represents the Pillaging of Our National Inheritance

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/01/2022 - 12:07am in

NHS PrivatisationThe Pillaging of Our National Inheritance

The infiltration of private sector providers into state services amounts to the robbery of resources that belong to us all, says Rachel Morris


Zach is an American journalist. A few years ago he fell from a great height, suffering back and ankle injuries. He asked a friend to drive him to hospital, to avoid ambulance fees he could ill-afford as a then-college student. Unfortunately, the facility was unable to perform the surgery he needed, so he was transferred. For that 10-minute ambulance ride between hospitals, he was billed $8,000.

Such a scenario is feared by those opposed to the apparent ‘privatisation by stealth’ of the NHS via the Government’s Health and Care Bill, currently being considered by the House of Lords.

The bill proposes the establishment of Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) that would direct procurement and provision in their areas – on which private healthcare company representatives could sit in evident conflict of interest.

Many claim that the NHS was privatised a long time ago, with GPs being private contractors. But there is a difference between private delivery of public services and ownership in private hands – or at least there should be. Under this Government, the lines are blurring.

Vast tax bills may be presented to health ‘customers’ via mushrooming public budgets, even as services decline, while shareholder profits grow healthily. There won’t be a swift, definitive leap towards a US-style system, but an incremental and opaque one.

There is a long British history of common resources being reserved for exclusive use by private owners. Much arable land was taken for sheep farming and villages diminished. Protests by people who lost their ancient customary rights of access to common lands, ‘enclosure riots’, went on throughout the 1500s and 1600s. But lands remained in private hands, underpinned sometimes by acts of Parliament, with a resulting increase in value. An Englishman’s home may be his castle, but it may sit on land once used for shared grazing, fuel, agriculture, and homes, by hordes forced to become landless labourers.

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater felon loose
Who steals the common from the goose

Anon., 18th Century

The commons – or ‘common wealth’ – included such natural resources as air and water. We retain this concept into the digital age, through library and museum collections, open-source operating systems and resources such as Linux and Wikipedia, and the ‘creative commons’ of data, free and open access.

Rapid privatisation of services during Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister was driven by her desire to defang unions, create a capitalist ‘shareholding democracy’ and, as stated in her memoirs, to reverse “the corrosive and corrupting effects of socialism”. By 1990, Thatcher had sold off 40 state-owned companies. 

British Gas – now owned by parent company Centrica – was sold in 1986, a hunger for shares driven by a viral marketing campaign with the catchphrase “if you see Sid, tell him”. Privatisation was heralded as a means of reducing prices, improving efficiency, and letting ‘the public’ share profits. The end of a public monopoly was to increase customer ‘sovereignty’ and choice. Of course, only a minority of people could afford to buy into what they had previously owned via the state.

Thirty-five years on and the energy market is in crisis, with dozens of smaller suppliers going to the wall just as winter arrived. The ‘big six’ energy companies control 77% of the market, four owned in France, Germany, and Spain; the French element being a subsidiary, ironically, of the state-run EDF. Energy prices are sky-rocketing, with increased costs borne by consumers, not shareholders or CEOs. Centrica employee strikes this year protested ‘fire and rehire’ contract changes: asked to work more for less, or lose their jobs.

The Four Layersof NHS Outsourcing
Sian Norris

The privatisation of Royal Mail, completed in stages from 2013 to 2016, is more controversial. It provided postal services for 500 years, at a steady profit. It was notoriously sold for £3.3 billion, perhaps as little as a-third of its true value. This was effectively public asset-stripping by the private sector, enabled by the Government. Royal Mail is more profitable than ever in the Coronavirus pandemic, but the spoils go to shareholders rather than into the public purse.

Denationalisation has brought about profiteering and under-investment in common assets. In addition to reduced employee protections, the environment has suffered. Witness the untrammelled dumping of raw sewage into British seas and waterways, and significant water loss due to un-repaired pipes (the water commons having been privatised in 1989).

Public-to-private transfers of wealth have not, as promised, resulted in shareholder democracy. They helped cement London as a global financial powerhouse, and made some very rich. But, the people who previously owned these utilities have lost out – they were never told what was done with the proceeds and they now pay higher prices for degenerating services to companies that maximise profits and minimise investment. The public is even expected to subsidise these firms should they need rescuing.

The Common Good

Privatisation is being reversed in other countries, with governments realising that private management is not inherently more efficient and effective. Spain has renationalised motorways. In Berlin, Dar-es-Salaam, Naples, and Paris, municipal water management has been ‘insourced’ – with profits used for investment in common assets.

The NHS was intended as a form of commons: resources held in common for individual and collective benefit, with every ‘shareholder’ having an equal interest. The 1942 Beveridge Report proposed it, and post-war Health Secretary Aneurin Bevan wasted no time in publishing the National Health Service Act in 1946.

1948 advertisements appealed to the public to register for healthcare and explained that the NHS belonged to them. In 1952, Bevan wrote: “The essence of a satisfactory health service is that the rich and the poor are treated alike, that poverty is not a disability, and wealth is not advantaged.”

Yet, four main areas of health service provision have now been given to private sector suppliers: backroom support, clinical outsourcing, soft services, and support services.

The financial transfer is from the public to private purses, charged to the public indirectly through taxes. Yes, the NHS is still in public hands and is not privatised in the purest sense. But there is no doubt that increasingly placing public service provision into private hands has brought profit into the arena of public health, as was never intended. Private companies must maximise profits to survive, demonstrating year-on-year growth. This is not compatible with healthcare access and public investment, and represents gradual privatisation from the inside-out.

Private HealthMeetsBig Data
Sam Bright

This is concerning when the Government proposes, via the Health and Care Bill, to reduce competitive tendering in commissioning private healthcare services. Throughout the pandemic it has been criticised for providing a ‘VIP fast lane’ to private companies, paid vast sums to produce goods for the NHS, with little transparency or scrutiny.

The planned sell-off of patient data has been halted after an outcry, at least for now. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is said to have met with US healthcare companies in California. An investigation by the Sunday National uncovered numerous links between Conservative MPs and private healthcare companies, involving copious donations. Can this Government be trusted, then, to prioritise wellbeing over profit?

At any rate, it has no electoral mandate to give private companies control over public health. The Conservative 2019 Manifesto promised: “20 hospital upgrades and 40 new hospitals… 50,000 more nurses and 6,000 more doctors… an extra 50 million general practice appointments a year… When we are negotiating trade deals, the NHS will not be on the table”. It said nothing of privatisation, by stealth or otherwise.

The private health model has changed the face of the welfare state. State services used to be entitlements available to all, but austerity has emaciated them. Public ownership gives everyone a voice in how services are managed and developed. Private ownership empowers a rich minority and is anti-democratic.

The NHS has always been funded primarily through general taxation. Your great-grandparents may have been the first in your family to invest in their own healthcare through this system. Your grandparents invested, your parents did the same, and now you do this for the next generations. The NHS is yours: your inheritance, probably your most valuable. Privatisation is the politics of pillaging.




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The Silent Struggle Behind the NHS Waiting List

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/12/2021 - 3:42am in

The Silent Struggle Behind the NHS Waiting List

James Reid reports on the human face of pressures on the health service – which was already struggling for the past decade under austerity, before inevitably being impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic


“I said to the surgeon just do the operation and stick me in a corridor afterwards, send me straight home, stick me in a broom cupboard I don’t care, just do it.”

Sharron, a 59-year-old with spinal stenosis who also looks after her elderly mother, has been waiting for surgery for more than a year. Meanwhile, her condition has deteriorated to the point that daily tasks are now a struggle.

“I used to love baking, I loved cooking but I can’t do that anymore,” she told Byline Times. “I have to cook sitting down which is very unnerving because you’re on eye-level with the pan.

“I should be able to do a lot more. I should be able to go out and do gardening, to be able to peg the washing out – I couldn’t even do that this year. I should be able to put the bins out on bin day. I can’t even vacuum the house properly. I have to do it sitting, going from chair, to chair, to chair. If I was to try and stand at the basin to clean my teeth, I wouldn’t make it. I can’t stand unaided for more than two minutes.”

Sharron is one of six million people in the UK currently waiting for treatment on the NHS – a figure that has risen dramatically since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. The pressure on the NHS as a result of the crisis has seen routine appointments and procedures pushed-back. Surgeries with wait times of weeks have turned into months, even years. 

While much of the focus has been on the pressure of waiting lists on the NHS and – rightly – on its impact on cancer referrals, behind this is the silent struggle of people with chronic or undiagnosed illnesses that are steadily deteriorating as they wait longer and longer for treatment.

Getting worse, too, is the mental health of those anxiously waiting to know if and when they will be treated, alongside the knowledge that their conditions are likely getting worse and therefore more difficult to treat.

Corporate TakeoverNHS Spending on Private Sector is UpBut Positive Patient Outcomes Are Down
Sian Norris

“It’s not just about that you can’t walk, that you can’t go out,” Ruth Isden, of AgeUK, told Byline Times. “People find it really emotionally and psychologically hard as well. It’s really affecting people’s mental health. The level of health anxiety is really high and it’s not just COVID. There’s anxiety about waiting, not knowing if they’ll get treatment, when they’ll get treatment, if it’s going to happen.” 

For Sharron, this is something she knows all too well.

“The waiting is absolutely killing me, being sent home three times has sent me to an all-time mental low,” she said.

Spinal stenosis is a condition in which pressure is placed on nerves in the spine and it can cause weakness in limbs, problems with walking and back pain. Surgery can be required to lessen this pressure.

“You know when you see old people walking around, leaning on a walking stick and they’re bent forward,” said Sharron. “Well, that’s me and I’m not even 60.”

Sharron was first sent for a MRI scan in September 2020, after which she was quickly diagnosed with spinal stenosis along with prolapsed discs. The advanced nature of her condition meant that she was immediately put forward for surgery, which she was told would be in weeks.

Yet, it was not until August that her first chance at surgery came – only for her to be sent home after waiting eight hours in hospital due to a lack of space. This happened again in both October and November, leaving Sharron no closer to getting the surgery that may give her a much better quality of life.

A Wider Crisis

Sharron’s story is not unique. She is just one of the more than six million people currently waiting – a number that has steadily risen over the past decade.

While the problem has acutely worsened during the Coronavirus pandemic, the impact of austerity has meant that NHS waiting times were a problem long before the crisis hit in early 2020.

According to a report by the House of Commons Library in October, waiting lists increased by 74% between December 2012 and December 2019 – rising to 4.5 million just three months before the pandemic.

Treatment levels are now, slowly, beginning to return to pre-pandemic levels, though this is now threatened once again by the rise of the new Omicron variant.

The Government has already pledged extra funding to try and deal with the backlog, but that is only part of the problem. For people like Sharron, the issue is not just about getting seen but the impact that waiting has had in the form of harder-to-treat conditions and worsening mental health. 

Simply treating more people is only part of the solution to a now much bigger crisis. On top of issues around mental health and deterioration of conditions, there are other challenges – such as the divide between people who can and cannot go private alongside the number of people not yet even on the waiting list. 

OMICRONNHS Hospitals Are Not ‘Scaremongering’About a Winter Coronavirus Wave
David Oliver

“I think we all know it is going to get worse before it gets better” Ruth Isden told Byline Times. “Because there’s a waiting list that we know about, but there’s also a huge backlog of cases of people who haven’t come forward yet or haven’t been diagnosed – they’re not even on the list yet.”

The Government has acknowledged that the NHS waiting list will extend well beyond six million people, meaning that many more will likely be dragged into this growing crisis – not just of how long people are having to wait, but the slow and silent impact it is having on people’s everyday lives.

Any solution to this crisis must address the wider problems at play rather than simply focusing on the raw numbers.

“I’m not managing – I’m stuck,” said Sharron. She is not the only one.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson told Byline Times: “Whilst the pandemic has put enormous pressures on the NHS and caused waiting lists to grow, we are committed to ensuring people get the treatment they need. Our £500 million Mental Health Recovery Action Plan has ensured we’re offering the right support this year to help people with a variety of mental health conditions.

“Our record investment in the NHS includes an extra £2 billion this year and £8 billion over the next three years to cut waiting times, including through delivering an extra nine million checks, scans and operations, making sure more patients get the treatment they need sooner.”




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NHS Hospitals Are Not ‘Scaremongering’ About a Winter Coronavirus Wave

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/12/2021 - 3:18am in

NHS Hospitals Are Not ‘Scaremongering’ About a New Winter Coronavirus Wave

David Oliver makes a plea on behalf of his colleagues as they face a surge of admissions due to the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19 this Christmas


Like so many NHS colleagues in acute care, I shall be working over this Christmas weekend. And, like many, I saw at first hand the awful toll of the first major COVID-19 wave in Spring 2020 and the even higher one in Winter 2021. 

With the Omicron variant surge, we face an uncertain January – hoping for the best, fearing the worst and planning for something in between.  

We know just how rapidly things escalated this time last year, with hospitals and intensive care units seeing record numbers of Coronavirus patients and with daily death numbers peaking at over 1,400. The scale of human tragedy and distress, for patients and their families and the staff coping with it daily, is not something we need to see again if we can avoid it. 

We would be delighted if a third wave of demand for acute care never even arose and I pray it doesn’t. But the Coronavirus pandemic has surely taught us that the precautionary principle should be respected and that it is better to act too early and decisively than too little and too late. 

Pandemic health protection measures are not all about you and your own personal risk or appetite for it, your own ‘natural immunity’ or fitness, your own liberty or freedom. They are about protecting everyone else

Labour Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting said in the parliamentary debate on the introduction of further COVID public health protection measures that “I don’t know why this has to be explained, again and again. We need to protect the NHS and prevent it from Toppling over”. He had a point.

If the NHS ambulance, hospital and intensive care services find themselves unable to meet the needs of all of the sickest and most vulnerable people – with or without COVID – not only will they suffer, or die avoidably, but so will others who need care.  As there is no magic reserve supply of beds or staff, ‘protect’ in the short-term can only mean ‘prevent so many people becoming infected or becoming seriously ill when they do’.

Our main hope of achieving this is mass vaccination, which does reduce our chance of becoming seriously ill, hospitalised or dying, along with general health protection measures designed to reduce the risk of transmission and the speed of spread. 

I am not here to make party-political points or to argue the case for particular interventions such as vaccine certificates or lockdowns. But I do want politicians, media commentators and members of the public alike to treat the threat of a third COVID wave seriously and for this to inform their decisions and views accordingly.

I have seen plenty of disconcerting comments I’ll paraphrase: Omicron is only a mild illness; it is no worse than a cold; it is less likely to hospitalise people; it is less dangerous than other variants; people are admitted or die with COVID and not because of COVID; scientists and medics are exaggerating and scaremongering; that the models were proved wrong before; that the NHS should be there to protect us, not the other way round; and if the NHS can’t cope, it isn’t fit for purpose.

The motivation for saying these things seems either to be hostility towards the NHS model or a refusal to accept that any further health protection measures are justified. 


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The Reality We Face

Firstly, the NHS really is under pressure in terms of demand and capacity. 

Right now, the service has just about the smallest number of general, acute and intensive care beds, doctors and nurses per capita among OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations.

Hospitals are routinely running very ‘hot’ at more than 90% bed occupancy. There are a record number of ‘stranded patients’ who are medically stable enough to leave (although by no means well and problem-free) but because of serial cuts in social care provision and insufficient capacity in community health services to support them outside hospital.   

Meanwhile, the number of people attending emergency departments or calling ambulances is back at pre-pandemic levels, waiting times and overcrowding are deteriorating. The service is also now under significant pressure to catch-up on a record number of patients on waiting lists for elective care such as investigations or operations.  Support grants for public health departments have also been cut by around 25% in the past five years.

Yes, during the first and second Coronavirus waves, the NHS did manage to near double intensive care capacity, change rotas and repurpose wards – but it came at a cost to planned care and patients remained at risk of contracting COVID-19 within hospital even if they were there for other reasons. 

Secondly, the NHS faces a huge staffing crisis. 

The NHS has more than 100,000 vacancies (as does social care). It has no more GPs than in 2015 despite consultation numbers growing year on year. Around one in 10 nursing posts are unfilled. Frontline staff working on COVID wards are several times more likely to catch COVID or be hospitalised than the rest of the workforce and more than 1,000 have died during the pandemic. Many more have Long COVID or are just burnt-out and demoralised after the past 21 months. We all know colleagues badly affected.

With Omicron increasing so rapidly and staff living in households and the community like everyone else, we are bound to see more going off sick or self-isolating. 

It takes years to train healthcare professionals and, with no staff, there is no service.  Trite soundbite solutions and rhetoric – sometimes designed to undermine the NHS model – won’t magic up staff and fewer are now coming here from overseas. Neither Brexit nor new immigration rules are helping the workforce gaps.   

Thirdly, the Coronavirus does not care for political discourse, ideology, opinion columns, retweets or clicks. 

We cannot minimise the threat with words or wish it away. Omicron is more infectious than earlier variants and the number of infected people is doubling every two or three days. We have already hit record numbers of daily positive tests and these are not, as is sometimes claimed, simply because we are testing more as major ongoing population surveillance studies from Oxford University and Imperial College show. Omicron is also more resistant to immunity from previous infection or vaccination, though boosters do seem to confer decent immunity. 

A Dangerous ParadoxTory MPs and their Media Allies Attack Chris Whitty for Simply Doing his Job
David Oliver

The Precautionary Principle

It may be that Omicron is no more likely, even less likely, to hospitalise or kill people than the Delta variant. But, if we end up with two or three times the number of cases as we have seen in earlier waves, including cases in the unvaccinated, it would only take 1% of say 200,000 cases a day being admitted and one in 5 of them to require intensive care treatment to cause a serious problem.

It takes around seven to 10 days for someone infected with COVID-19 to get sick enough to be hospitalised and another week or more for them to get sick enough to die. So, what we see in January will reflect the patterns of transmission in late December. 

Of course, models are imprecise. That is inherent – they have a range of variables and potential outcomes, although at a local level throughout the NHS they proved quite accurate in terms of predicting hospital admissions, bed days and intensive care demand. Dismissing or mocking models just because the worst-case scenarios didn’t materialise last time (after we had put in mitigating measures to prevent just that) is unwise.

But my biggest plea is this. Pandemic health protection measures are not all about you and your own personal risk or appetite for it, your own ‘natural immunity’ or fitness, your own liberty or freedom. They are about protecting everyone else

It might be your own parent, grandparent or sibling that dies from COVID-19 or from a lack of access to overwhelmed services. It might be your neighbour or someone in another town or from another social class or ethnic group. This isn’t a game and we need to take it seriously and stop posturing and point-scoring, before, once again, we have left it too late to act.

David is an experienced NHS consultant physician who has worked on Coronavirus wards. He is a columnist for the ‘British Medical Journal’ and has held a variety of senior leadership, academic and policy roles in medicine




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Army Still Being Deployed to Deliver Fuel – Despite Government’s ‘Precautionary’ Claim

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/12/2021 - 12:45am in

Army Still Being Deployed to Deliver FuelDespite Government’s ‘Precautionary’ Claim

Military personnel are being asked to compensate for persistent HGV driver shortages in the wake of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, Sam Bright reports


The army is still being used to deliver fuel to petrol stations – despite the policy originally being announced as a ‘precautionary’ measure, Byline Times can reveal.

Some 137 military personnel were still being deployed as HGV drivers on 10 December “in support to the energy sector for the distribution of fuel”, the Government stated earlier this week in response to a written parliamentary question.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng approved the deployment of military personnel in late September, amid nationwide fuel shortages. News stories about dwindling supplies at some forecourts caused a rush for fuel – dramatically increasing demand, exacerbating the problem and causing hours-long queues at many stations.

Kwarteng suggested at the time that the army was being used to alleviate these seemingly short-term issues, saying that, “the sooner we can all return to our normal buying habits, the sooner the situation will return to normal”.

However, it now appears that army personnel are required to keep the system functioning, even in more normal times.

Indeed, the fuel shortages were caused by a lack of HGV drivers – a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and Brexit. The Road Haulage Association has estimated that there is a shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers in the UK, which has increased from 60,000 following the UK’s official departure from the EU in 2020 and the onset of the pandemic.

The Government subsequently attempted to ease these shortages by launching a scheme in early October, encouraging 300 EU drivers without a visa to enter the country. However, Byline Times revealed in November that only nine applications were made under the scheme, just 3% of the total.

The criteria for drivers under the scheme included: having an EU licence to drive HGV fuel tankers, alongside a commitment not to claim benefits, an intention to leave the UK after the expiry of the scheme, and an endorsement letter from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Britain’s Post-BrexitImmigration SystemCannot Cope
Sam Bright

Consequently, due a lack of demand from EU drivers, it appears as though army personnel are being used to make up the shortfall.

The Government has announced a number of visa schemes, designed to boost the number of HGV drivers in the country – not just those transporting fuel. Overall, the UK has made 4,700 temporary visas available to HGV drivers, which will expire early in 2022. This is alongside 5,500 visas for poultry workers, and 800 for pork butchers.

However, Byline Times understands that the Government has so far been unwilling to share information with industry bodies on the success of the schemes. The Government has also repeatedly refused to provide this information to MPs – instead stating that details will be “published in the usual way via the Home Office’s quarterly immigration statistics”.

Yet, parliamentary questions show that the army is not only being used to drive HGVs. The Government also stated yesterday that army personnel had been deployed as driving test examiners for prospective HGV drivers wishing to gain licenses.

In fact, the army has been deployed on all manner of civilian projects in recent times. Earlier this week, it was announced that 750 armed forces personnel have been made available to the UK’s COVID-19 vaccine booster programme. According to the Government, the UK’s defence operation has supported more than 430 tasks in response to the pandemic.

As a result, even the Spectator – the right-wing magazine formerly edited by Boris Johnson – penned an editorial earlier this month observing that “the Prime Minister ought to ask: should Britain not have an NHS capable of responding quickly without needing to call in the army?”

Ironically, the Government’s reasonable worst-case planning estimate for Brexit – named ‘Operation Yellowhammer’ and released in August 2019 – anticipated supply chain disruption, leading to shortages of goods. The army on the streets was not a Brexit ‘dividend’ promised during the referendum campaign, but it certainly appears to be one of the upshots.




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A Perfect Storm: Operation Booster Hits Already Under-Pressure NHS

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/12/2021 - 11:10pm in

A Perfect StormOperation COVID Booster Hits Already Under-Pressure NHS

Healthcare staff are expressing concerns at being able to offer all adults the Coronavirus booster jab by 2022


GPs and NHS staff were taken by surprise by the Prime Minister announcement to offer all adults a Coronavirus booster vaccine by 31 December – with various surgeries informing patients not to rearrange existing vaccine appointments as “current clinics are full and we will not be able to offer alternatives at this time”.

The announcement, screened to the nation on Sunday night, launched what Boris Johnson called “operation emergency boost”. “I said we would offer every eligible adult a booster by the end of January,” Johnson said. “In light of this Omicron emergency, I am bringing that target forward by a whole month.”

The plan is to roll-out the booster jab in order to tackle the wave of Omicron, the Coronavirus variant that is spreading rapidly through the country and which is set to become the dominant strain of the virus.

This means, Johnson continued, that “everyone eligible aged 18 and over in England will have the chance to get their booster before the New Year”.

It has since been clarified by the Department of Health and Social Care that adults will be “offered” the booster vaccine by the end of the year, but they may not receive the jab until 2022. 

In the wake of the announcement, members of the public with booster vaccines already booked for 2022 received text messages from their GP surgeries explaining “we have just heard the Government’s announcement” and that they would be “reviewing their capacity to bring COVID-19 vaccines forward”. This suggests that the reviewed target was as much news to NHS staff as it was to the general public. 

On social media, people shared messages from GP surgeries explaining that they had not received advance notice of the announcement and that they are “trying to organise the logistics of any additional vaccines as soon as possible”.


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A Lack of Forward Planning

Medical staff believe that they should have had longer to prepare for the booster roll-out, with GPs already facing staffing pressures and low morale. 

Speaking to BBC News, Dr Nighat Arif said her “heart sank” when she heard the revised target as it wasn’t clear how the NHS would deliver “the rest of medicine as well as a huge vaccination programme”.

A GP based in Yorkshire shared how “we’ve already ramped up our capacity in light of the ask which went out a couple of weeks ago, so we’re struggling to think where can the extra capacity come from and are beginning to think ‘well how are we going to do this’”.

These concerns echo similar pressures from last year, when NHS staff were tasked with treating Coronavirus patients during the deadly winter wave, while delivering the mass vaccine programme which has since saved countless lives. 

Speaking anonymously to Byline Times earlier this year, one GP explained how one of the many pressures she and her colleagues had faced was the vaccine programme “because we didn’t have enough staff. Our nurses were running the surgery and the vaccine centre, our GPs were working in the surgery and running the vaccine centre”.

She added how “we were promised the army but we never saw them. My working day starts at 5am and goes on until midnight”.

The NHS website to book booster jabs is facing huge demand as people flock online to arrange an appointment, while long queues have formed outside of walk-in centres from people eager to get vaccinated before Christmas.

At the same time, supplies of lateral flow tests – which are available for free from local pharmacies or for home delivery– have run low, with the Government website stating that “there are no rapid lateral flow tests available today for home delivery”. For people with Coronavirus symptoms, there are currently no PCR tests available to book in England, adding to concerns about capacity to manage the new phase of this crisis.

Announcement on Government website saying there are no rapid lateral flow tests available for home delivery, 14 December

The concerns about capacity to deliver the vaccines do not cast doubt on the urgency and the importance that everyone receives the jab as soon as possible to help stop the spread of Coronavirus. 

Existing Pressures 

During his address, Boris Johnson explained that his plan would “mean some other appointments will need to be postponed until the New Year” to mitigate any delays to treatment down the road, he explained, adding that “the wave of Omicron could be so big that cancellations and disruptions, like the loss of cancer appointments, would be even greater next year”.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid has asked that GPs focus on “urgent appointments and jabs only”.

On social media, people shared text messages from their surgeries reflecting this messaging – although these tweets are not verified. 

While ensuring that everyone has the booster vaccine is understandably a priority to reduce infection, hospitalisation and deaths from another wave of Coronavirus, the change in emphasis will put more pressure on a health service already struggling with demand. 

According to a snapshot survey conducted by Pulse Magazine, GP waiting times have reduced since before the pandemic, with 65% of respondents saying that patients who booked a non-urgent telephone or online consultation were on average waiting less than a week to see their GP. In 2019, patients were often having to wait more than two weeks for an appointment. 

But the Government has recently taken aim at GPs’ use of phone consultations – with Javid demanding surgeries offer more face-to-face appointments. He proposed naming and shaming surgeries that see “too few” patients in person – an intervention opposed by the British Medical Association’s GP committee. 

GPs Facing Rising Abuse from Patientsas Pressures on Surgeries Increase
Sian Norris

Outside of GP surgeries, waiting lists across the NHS have reached an all-time high, with 5.8 million patients waiting for routine surgery by the end of September 2021.

The British Medical Association reported that the overall median waiting time for treatment increased to 12 weeks in October 2021, as did the total number of patients waiting over 18 weeks for treatment, at 2.05 million. The number of patients waiting over one year for treatment increased to reach 312,665.

Meanwhile, the UK faces a shortage of GPs – with the Government admitting it is “not on course” to meet its manifesto pledge to recruit 6,000 additional GPs by 2025. There are now just 0.45 fully qualified GPs per 1,000 patients in England. This is because there are fewer GPs and more patients – the number of fully-qualified GPs has decreased by 1,744 since 2015, while in contrast, each surgery has nearly 2,000 more patients on average than six years ago.

The shortage is creating a bottleneck, with patients struggling to access primary care, which can then lead to delayed diagnoses, causing greater stress further down the health service. It also means those people living with a diagnosis feel they have to manage without GP support as they wait for surgery or ongoing treatment. 

While the Government is clear that delays now will mean fewer delays and cancellations later on, the concern is that the NHS is facing a perfect storm of long waiting lists, staff shortages and a vaccine roll-out that one doctor speaking to ITV Central said has not been “well thought out”.

To book your booster jab, you can visit the NHS website




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Cash-Strapped Councils and a Crisis in Children’s Care

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 13/12/2021 - 11:33pm in

Cash-Strapped Councils and a Crisis in Children’s Care

A perfect storm of rising need, austerity and funding cuts has created a crisis in children’s social care, Sian Norris reports


The horrific death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, who suffered devastating neglect and abuse from his father and stepmother, has put the spotlight once again on children’s services in England. 

Fingers have been pointed at social workers, teachers and police officers for failing to protect the six-year-old who was often forced to stand alone in the hallway of his family home for hours on end. 

The responsibility for the child’s death rests solely with his killers. It is, however, worth examining the impact of a decade of austerity on the same children’s services which have been criticised since his killers were sentenced.

Cuts to local government have put services under pressure over the last 10 years – understanding such pressure can help to avoid another horrific killing and save children’s lives. 

A Decade of Austerity

There are more looked-after children than ever before – 80,850 children in England, including children who have been adopted. 

However, despite the increased need, analysis by the charity Action for Children revealed how funding available for children’s services fell by £2.2 billion between 2010/11 and 2018/19, or a 23% reduction. This included a nearly 46% cut to early intervention services. 

The most deprived areas were hit hardest. Austerity measures led to a 60% cut in local authority funding from central government. These cuts meant a 17% fall in councils’ spending on local public services since 2010 – equal to 23% or nearly £300 per person. Almost this entire cut took place before 2015.

Councils have a legal duty to provide children’s services. In order to meet this duty, they were instructed to manage the cuts by making savings, and rely on making up the cuts’ impacts through council tax and business rates. 

Because wealthier regions charge higher council tax and rake in higher business rates, due to their residents’ assets and wealth, they were able to weather the austerity storm more easily. But in deprived areas – which are more likely to have higher rates of looked-after children – making up the funding shortfall has proven more challenging as they generate lower council tax revenues. 

Take Blackpool, one of the most deprived areas in England, with the highest rate of looked-after children of England’s unitary authorities. It has 220 children in care per 10,000 children. Its council tax revenue for this year was worth £64,724,000, to serve a population of 138,380, just under £470 per person. 

In contrast, England’s richest region – the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – has 36 looked-after children per 10,000 children. Its council tax revenue was £117,361,000 for a population of nearly 157,000 – or just more than £700 per person. 

Cities such as Birmingham, which records a large council tax revenue of £402,499,000 has a population of more than two million people – working out at £153.25 per person. The authority records 67 looked after children per 10,000 children. Liverpool, which has 157 looked-after children per 10,000 children, raised council tax revenue worth £199,035,000. It has a population of 906,000 people, or around £220 per person. 

How Vulnerable Children Becomean Investment Opportunity
Katharine Quarmby and Sian Norris

‘Favourable Demographics’

Spending per person on acute children’s services is budgeted to be 2% higher than a decade ago, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Councils have increased their spending by £1.1 billion in the past two years – but this combined with the cuts has led to councils overspending their budgets. Last year eight in 10 ended up overspending by £800 million collectively. The National Audit Office warned that 25 councils are on the cusp of bankruptcy.

There is one area where spending on children’s services has increased. While early intervention and places such as Sure Start centres have been cut, spending on children in care – be that residential or foster – soared by 40% between 2010/11 and 2018/19. This is in part because of the large increase in private provision of both foster and residential care for looked after children – an increase which can be costly for councils and profitable for investors.

Twenty years ago, 40% of children’s homes were privately run – it is now closer to 75%. About a third of children are placed in foster care using private agencies. A report by the Competition and Markets Authority revealed the significant profits private care homes and foster agencies are making, with local authorities paying for private providers to run these services. One pound in every five that English councils spend on private care is banked as profit.

In a November 2020 report published by the Children’s Commissioner, a local authority residential services manager explained how “private homes will charge what the market will allow. It’s not unusual for them to charge £8-9,000 [per week] because they can charge that. You know you’d usually be paying £6,000 [per week] but you’re going to have to take it because it’s Friday afternoon and there are no other options. The Commissioning team can see the cost breakdowns and can challenge this but ultimately if another local authority is prepared to pay that you have to take it because otherwise what do you do in that evening?”

A commissioning services manager shared how “we haven’t got the bargaining power to be able to say: ‘no, we’re not going to pay those prices’ because the next Friday one of us will. This provider popped up they were charging absurd prices, I think it was about £10,000 and we were all like ‘no, no, we’re never going to use that’ and literally within two weeks we were like: ‘can you take our child?’”

Byline Times has reported how the urgent need of children – some of whom will have endured neglect and abuse – to access residential or foster care is being touted by investment advisors as offering a “​​compelling buy and build strategy, favourable demographics, and significant consolidation opportunities”. Among the top 10 providers of children’s homes, seven are now owned by private equity firms. 

As such, vulnerable children are being treated as an investment opportunity by investors keen to make profits out of a perfect storm: austerity, deprivation, and cash-strapped councils. The six largest independent providers of placements made £219 million in profit last year.




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Carlos García Hernández interviews Chris Williamson – The Resist Movement

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 12/12/2021 - 5:57am in

GIMMS welcomes Carlos García Hernández as he introduces his new interview with Chris Williamson.

Carlos García Hernández and Chris WilliamsonCarlos García Hernández and Chris Williamson

“As long as the issue of any matter fraught with peril is still in doubt, and there is yet some possibility left that all may come right, no one should ever tremble or think of anything but resistance — just as a man should not despair of the weather if he can see a bit of blue sky anywhere. Let our attitude be such that we should not quake even if the world fell in ruins about us.”

Whenever I think of Chris Williamson, this passage from Schopenhauer on courage comes to mind. Today I am pleased to share an interview with Chris Williamson to discuss his new political project called Resist. In it he presents his proposal for the UK, after he was expelled from the Labour Party despite having been a prominent Member of Parliament alongside Jeremy Corbyn.

As it appears on its website, the party is based on a 10-point program:

  1. Health and social care: Publicly owned health and social care service, free at the point of delivery, including free dental and ophthalmic treatment.
  2. Public services: Reverse all previous privatisations of public services, including health, education services, prisons and utilities, to ensure they are properly resourced.
  3. Education: Provide free cradle to grave access to education and write off outstanding student debts.
  4. Housing: Build and acquire new council housing to address shortages and homelessness, applying stringent eco and space standards; regulate private sector housing; expand cooperative housing for sale and rent.
  5. Economy: Utilise powers available to a currency-issuing nation to create a strong economy that works in the interests of the many, not the few; introduce a genuinely progressive tax system; introduce a job guarantee scheme; Standardise a four-day working week; raise the minimum wage to a genuine living wage; make trade union representation a right in all workplaces and repeal anti-trade union laws.
  6. Access to justice: Overhaul the Justice system to ensure legal equality through access to legal aid for all; focus on community rather than custodial sentences and prioritise rehabilitation rather than punishment; decriminalise substance misuse and treat it as a public health not a criminal justice issue.
  7. Comprehensive Green New Deal: Invest in renewable technologies; insulate all residential and commercial premises to reduce the carbon footprint and end fuel poverty; introduce a climate change adaptation programme, including reforesting the uplands; end factory farming and increase sustainable arable food production.
  8. National security programme for a safer and peaceful world: Scrap Trident programme; withdraw from NATO; use position as a permanent member of UN Security Council to promote peace and disarmament; demand a democratic UN; diversify arms industries into socially useful eco production.
  9. Social security: Reduce state retirement age for men and women to 60; re-establish universal principle for social security entitlements; extend paid parental leave to 18 months.
  10. Constitution: Replace the Monarchy with a democratically elected head of state; scrap the House of Lords and remove all feudal privileges; decentralise power to local regions; ban paid lobbying; make elected representatives accountable through participatory democracy.

In these 10 points are the reasons why Williamson was expelled from the Labour Party. Williamson was expelled because he is a socialist. What the Labour Party did not know is that they were not dealing with an ordinary leader, but with a person immune to fear and with immense resilience and courage.

In the interview below, Williamson sets out the two methods Resist will follow in trying to carry out the 10 points of his program. At the macroeconomic policy level, Resist relies on modern monetary theory. At the microeconomic policy level, Resist relies on innovative pragmatism (a term coined by Williamson himself in the 1990s).

I must confess that when I learned of Chris Williamson’s interest in my proposal for fiat socialism, I was flattered. Now that interest has come to fruition and Resist will turn to modern monetary theory to achieve its socialist goals. With this, the need to disconnect tax collection and public spending by the central government is finally being launched into public opinion by an organized party. Resist proposes a macroeconomic policy based on permanent full employment through job guarantee schemes and on a level of public spending whose objective is not deficit reduction but general welfare and price stability. At the local and municipal level, where the spending capacity of municipalities and councils is indeed constrained by tax collection, Williamson draws on his more than 30 years of political experience and proposes to recover what he called innovative pragmatism from Derby City Council. According to this idea, knowledge of fiscal policies at the local level makes it possible to carry out social programs that complement central government spending policies. The result is a highly flexible economic program, based on the search for solutions at both the national and local levels, that places Resist at the forefront of the struggle for socialism.

Its leaders may not know it yet, but the Labour Party is lost. Its collapse is a matter of time. The electoral disaster of the last election is only the beginning of its collapse. The future belongs to the brave socialists. The future of the British left is Resist.


The Resist Movement:


Twitter: @MFApeoplesparty


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Conservative Donors Miss Out on £5 Billion PPE Contract

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/12/2021 - 9:00pm in

Conservative Donors Miss Out On £5 Billion PPE Contract

Most of the Conservative-linked suppliers commissioned at the outset of the Coronavirus pandemic are no longer involved in NHS PPE procurement, Sam Bright reports


The Government has released a significant new contract for the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the NHS, which exposes the way that it handled the procurement of PPE during the early months of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The new contract, which features 76 prospective suppliers, is worth £5 billion and will run from January 2022 to January 2024.

It is an ‘open procedure’ agreement, commissioned by the NHS Supply Chain, which is essentially a long-list of firms that can bid for portions of work under the contract. The firms will be expected to supply gowns, drapes, respirators, face masks, and eye protection – precisely the equipment that the UK desperately sought to procure at the outset of the crisis.

Of the companies listed on this contract, two have donated to the Conservatives, two have other links to the party, and four were previously included in the controversial ‘VIP’ lane – according to Byline Times‘ research.

Globus Shetland is included in the new contract, a firm that has donated more than £375,000 to the Conservative Party. Its director, Haraldur Agustsson, is also a member of the Conservative Leader’s Group – an elite dining society which grants access to top politicians in exchange for party donations. Globus Shetland was awarded £94 million for the supply of respirators in September 2020, and doubled its post-tax profits, from £2.5 to £5 million, in the period to 31 May 2020.

“Globus Group has over 25 years’ experience producing PPE for healthcare workers and across industry, and is the largest British based manufacturer,” a company spokesperson told Byline Times. “We’re pleased to have secured this opportunity to continue delivering vital PPE to help NHS frontline staff do their jobs safely.”

£100 Million Profit Boostfor Firms Given Government Contracts Through‘VIP’ Lane
Byline Times and The Citizens

Cargo Services Far East, CCS Mclays, GBUK and Tower Supplies are all also featured in the new NHS contract, having previously been awarded contracts via the Government’s VIP lane – a process used by the Government during the early stages of the pandemic to expedite suppliers referred by MPs, ministers and officials. Cargo Services was referred to it by Conservative MP Andrew Percy and former Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock, while CCS Mclays was referred by Conservative MP Steve Brine.

Any Government contract awarded to a firm with links to the governing party should rightfully be questioned. Indeed, at least 30 firms with links to the Conservative Party have been awarded contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic, while 50 companies won deals via the expedited VIP lane.

This new £5 billion contract therefore signals a change from the the earlier stages of the pandemic – with many of the original suppliers not involved in current PPE procurement, now that more normal processes have been re-established.

This suggests that many of the firms commissioned to provide equipment during the early months of the crisis were not optimal suppliers – and that others may have used the pandemic as a short-term opportunity to make money, given that they no longer have an interest in bidding for PPE contracts.

Indeed, of the £14.6 billion spent on PPE by the Government during the pandemic, some £2.8 billion has been found to be unusable. Meanwhile, by the end of July, the Government was engaged in “commercial discussions” – “potentially leading to litigation” – in relation to 40 PPE contracts with a combined value of £1.2 billion, covering 1.7 billion items of substandard equipment.

Early Warnings

One of the firms listed on the new £5 billion agreement is Full Support Healthcare – one of the largest beneficiaries of public contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic, to the tune of £1.9 billion, and a PPE supplier to the NHS for many years.

The owner of the firm, Sarah Stoute, previously told MPs that she had warned officials about an oncoming shortage of PPE in December 2019, yet was largely ignored. The firm had millions of items of PPE waiting on planes in February and March, Stoute told MPs, yet did not receive the go-ahead to supply the Government until April. “Weeks went by when nothing was happening and we couldn’t get escalation,” she said.

The National Audit Office (NAO) – the independent spending watchdog – has explained in some detail the Government’s initial failures in relation to the procurement of PPE. The existing operating model “was not designed to respond to a pandemic,” the NAO stated in a report in November 2020. In fact, the Government’s stockpile contained enough PPE to cope for just two weeks, while there were aprons to last only six days.

The NAO explains how the Government still believed in mid-March – when England was about to enter its first full lockdown – that its existing stockpiles “would provide most of the PPE needed to manage a COVID-19 pandemic”. It was only by late March that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) realised that the NHS Supply Chain could not procure and distribute PPE quickly enough to meet demand, and so took responsibility for the process.



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The DHSC subsequently created the VIP lane, and used “informal arrangements” to distribute contracts – in the words of former Health Minister Lord James Bethell. As a result of these rushed procedures, amid a nationwide shortage of PPE, contracts were awarded to firms with ties to the governing Conservative Party.

In total, at least £3 billion in COVID contracts have been awarded to Conservative donors and associates. Now that the NHS Supply Chain has taken back control of PPE orders, the vast majority of these suppliers are no longer being used.

However, it is unclear why the NHS would need £5 billion of additional PPE, given the vast quantities purchased during the pandemic.

Government statistics in November 2020 showed that it had procured eye protectors to last five-and-a-half years, IIR face masks to last two-and-a-half years, and gowns to last two years. Much of this was purchased at hyper-inflated prices, due to the Government’s delayed response to the nation’s chronic shortage of PPE.

Byline Times has also spoken to an NHS procurement specialist, who said that there is concern about the new contract only covering “single-use” equipment. “We have a waste crisis, environmental issues and a climate crisis,” NHS sustainability manager Alexis Percival tweeted, when the contract was initially put out to tender. “This is not appropriate for a net zero present, let alone future,” she added.

Meanwhile, the Government is spending £1 million a day to store unused PPE, often in haulage containers, due to a lack of warehouse capacity. Drone images appear to show that up to 1,000 containers are being stored at Mendlesham Airfield next to Felixstowe port in Suffolk.

A DHSC spokesperson told Byline Times: “In order to protect our health and social care staff, we have taken the necessary steps to ensure they have the right size and type of PPE available at all times. Offers of support through the high priority list were subject to the same rigorous checks and robust assurance processes as all other procurement routes and ministers did not and do not have any role in awarding contracts.”

Additional reporting by Sascha Lavin

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.





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