The NHS Cooperation and Competition Panel (CCP) was set up by the last government as part of its drive to intensify the NHS market.
Controversy over potential conflicts of interest for its chairman Lord Patrick Carter of Coles, have just surfaced (Guardian 5 March) — three years after he first took up the job.
Under the Health and Social Care Bill the CCP will be merged with another regulatory body, Monitor, and Monitor will oversee a gigantic expansion of private sector companies in the NHS.
Patrick Carter founded and built up Westminster Health Care (a private nursing home company) in the 1980s. He got rich on the back of Thatcherite reforms which saw “social” care redefined, privatised and subjected to means testing.
Selling his business in 1999, Carter decided to “give something back” to the country. He was knighted by New Labour and “employed” on various committees and quangos.
A tiring schedule for little financial reward. But it was all good for the dynamic 50-something peer because he still had his millions to invest in “health”-related private companies like Life Works Community Ltd (rehab for the rich) and time to give to companies based in the offshore tax-haven Bermuda (Primary Group Ltd).
What’s got the Royal College of GPs particularly annoyed is Carter’s position as chair of McKesson Information Solutions Ltd, a US-owned healthcare giant. Operating as System C in the UK, the company has contracts with more than 90% of NHS organisations as well as private health companies.
It provides “healthcare solutions” (IT-based stuff). It’s a big business which could make a gigantic killing in the next few years.
Whether Carter ever does have a direct conflict of interest — the CCP say he pops out of the room when his interests are involved in any investigation — is secondary.
The real disgrace is that a wheeler-dealer life peer who got rich on NHS privatisation holds such a powerful position. No one elected him, and he can’t be held to account.
What the hell does he know about the real aspirations and needs of the people who rely on the NHS?
He got where he is by crawling over “little people” — whether it was by paying pittance wages to migrant workers who worked in his homes or by exploiting other people’s infirmity.