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Latest 20 September 2023

Government gives Tory donor £137m in hidden payments

Ink Spot/Alamy

Frank Hester, who gave the Conservatives £5m, continues to rake in £800,000 a week.

The Department of Health and Social Care has paid a firm owned by Frank Hester, the healthcare tech tycoon, whose £5m donation to the Conservatives was revealed earlier this month, £137m in hidden payments apparently for digitising NHS records. And the payments to Hester’s Phoenix Partnership – which are running at around £800,000 a week – continue to flow. 

The contracts under which the payments were made have not been published on the Government’s official procurement website, Contracts Finder. DHSC does not deny that the payments were made, or that it has failed to publish the contracts, but claims the payments were made under a published ‘contract framework’ and that there is no requirement to publish individual contract awards.

The enormous scale of the payments to Hester’s Phoenix Partnership has not previously been reported. Good Law Project calculated the size of these payments by combing through four years of the department’s data on official payments.

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The accounts of the holding company, which is 100% owned by Frank Hester, reveal that he was paid £10m in dividends last year. And his operating company has paid dividends of £52m in the last four years. In December last year Frank Hester wrote: “We are here for our NHS. We are here to help, not drive profits for shareholders or to grease revolving doors.”

The VIP lane – a system for fast-track access declared illegal in a Court case brought by Good Law Project – was an exclusive red carpet to riches for friends of Tory politicians. Every Parliamentarian who successfully referred an associate or donor to the VIP lane was a Tory. And many of those who won these controversial contracts to supply PPE, without any competition, have since given large sums of money to the Conservatives.

“We’ve been shining a light on the donors’ money-go-round since the pandemic,” said the Good Law Project Executive Director, Jo Maugham, “but the huge size of Hester’s donation makes this stand out for its sheer ugliness.”

Frank Hester was approached for a comment. 


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