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EXCLUSIVE: Private hospitals were paid over £1.5 billion during the pandemic

3rd November 2021

Documents released by NHS England after a long-running FOI battle with Good Law Project reveal that eight private sector providers were paid an eye-watering £1.69 billion by NHS England during the pandemic.

NHS England released the spend data covering April 2020 to March 2021, following an intervention from the ICO earlier this month.

The eight firms that received the money were Circle Health, Spire Healthcare Limited, Ramsey Health, Nuffield Health, HCA Healthcare UK, Care UK, Aspen Healthcare and Practice Plus. 

At the start of the pandemic, the Government issued huge contracts to private hospitals to provide additional capacity, but research by the Centre for Health and the Public Interest (CHPI) discovered that the vast majority of beds reserved were never used.

Key findings revealed that, of an estimated 8,000 private beds made available, no more than 78 were used in any one day and private hospitals delivered only ‘0.08% of COVID care’ overall. 

A joint investigation between The Guardian and Good Law Project previously revealed that, of these eight firms:

  • Ramsay Health Care, which operates 34 UK hospitals and treatment centres, won contracts worth up to £380m. Its general counsel previously worked for the Department of Health and Social Care between 2008 and 2013.
  • Practice Plus Group is owned by the private equity group Bridgepoint, whose advisory board includes the Conservative life peer Stuart Rose and Alan Milburn, the former Labour health secretary.
  • One Healthcare, recipient of work worth up to £17.7m, is owned by the asset manager Octopus Investments, which gave the Tories £12,500 in 2018.
  • Tory Peer and major donor Lord Nash is the ex-chairman and a shareholder in Care UK. Lord Nash’s declared financial interests also reveal he holds  shares in Softcat Plc. The data released by NHSE revealed that they were paid £4.5m during the same period.

The full dataset can be downloaded here

This is the second time this month that the ICO has sided with Good Law Project to order that crucial transparency data be published.

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