This text below is from an Emergency motion passed by Unite on the behaviour of Sir Stephen Bubb, the Head of Choice and Competition in the NHS Future Forum, which was set up during the Health bill's so-called 'listening exercise'.
Stephen Bubb, the Director of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, has played a major role in imposing the doctrine of “Any qualified provider” on the NHS.
He referred former Health Minister Andy Burnham to the Cooperation and Competition Panel when Burnham publicly stated that the NHS should be the “preferred provider” of NHS services, forcing Burnham to back down publicly on this principle. A document recently discovered by online journalist Andrew Robertson shows quite clearly how he used his role as chair of the NHS Future Forum to ensure that the interests of private healthcare companies were served in the carrying through of the Health & Social Care Act.
To quote NHS Partners Network/NHS Confederation Director David Worskett in the document: “I had one lengthy, very early discussion with Sir Stephen Bubb at which we agreed on the approach he would take [on the Health & Social Care Act], what the key issues are, and how to handle the politics. He has not deviated from this for a moment throughout the period.“ (NHS Partners Network/NHS Confederation is the major confederation covering private healthcare companies looking to profit from commissioning for NHS services).
David Worskett also says in the same document: “I also have the impression that the arguments in favour of choice, competition, plurality and economic regulation [i.e. privatisation] put forward by the small handful of like-minded members ably led by Sir Stephen Bubb have often carried the day and won more support than we might have expected.”
He has done this on the basis that the voluntary sector (as well as the private sector) who could gain financially through bidding to carry out public services. All the evidence now emerging shows that voluntary sector groups are being driven out of the bidding wars for the provision of public services – for example the Work Programme – in favour of the private sector, thus proving the truth of the prediction made several years ago that the voluntary sector simply serves as a “stalking horse” or a cover for private companies in the privatisation of public services.
This conference resolves:
- To ask Unite to publicise the activities of Stephen Bubb in pushing forward the break-up and marketisation of the NHS to all our members in the organisations which make up the membership of ACEVO.
- To ask Unite to publicise his activities to all the member organisations of ACEVO (including their Chief Executives and Board members), and call on them to leave that organisation in protest.
Note 1: The Futures Forum was the body which oversaw the carrying out of the Coalition government’s so-called listening exercise when the outcry against the Health & Social Care Bill forced a pause in its high-velocity passage through parliament.
More information on Stephen Bubb’s role in the “pause” and listening process forced on the Coalition government by the outcry against the Health & Social Care Bill
Stephen Bubb is head of the voluntary sector organisation “Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO).
He is convinced that the way forward for funding for voluntary sector organisations (in the face of spiralling funding cuts to the sector) is through voluntary sector organisations bidding to provide public services. (NB: there are some elements of state funded provision e.g. legal advice which have historically been supplied by the voluntary sector).
He is oblivious to the fact that voluntary sector organisations cannot compete against private companies in these bidding wars, and that even if voluntary sector groups win such bids they soon find that the money they get does not cover the provision of a good quality service. They either have to abandon the quality of the services (by driving down wages and conditions of workers, as well as the service itself) or abandon the service to private sector companies (witness what happened with the government’s Work Programme. All the voluntary sector groups initially involved have now been forced to walk away).
Bubb has therefore consistently fought to open up public services to the voluntary sector – and in so doing he has also been more than happy to open them up to the private sector also. Successive governments have tried to sweeten the poison of public service outsourcing by featuring the fact that it is not only private companies who will be bidding, but also the voluntary sector. The voluntary sector which bids is of course something which take on more and more the characteristics of private companies.
Andy Burnham and the NHS as “Preferred Provider”
In 2009 Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham ( in the face of mounting union protests over NHS privatisation) said that “the NHS should be the preferred provider” in any tendering process.
Stephen Bubb reported Andy Burnham to the Cooperation and Competition Panel, and Burnham was forced into a humiliating reversal of his position. See this article http://www.wavocc.org.uk/department_of_health_principles_and_rules_for_c
Private companies recruit Bubb to push through the privatisation provisions of the Health & Social Care Act
After a huge outcry from health professionals and health campaigners as the Health & Social Care was forced through in 2011, the government arranged for an unprecedented “Listening pause” while a carefully selected group was appointed to run the “Futures Forum”. (This carefully selected group chose to ignore the array of valid criticisms of the Act which emerged even from their carefully selected forums - including the policy of “Any Qualified Provider” which has resulted in the taking over of £100s of millions worth of health services by the likes of Virgin Healthcare, and Care UK.)
Simon Burns (health minister 2010-12) requested the okay from David Cameron to make the appointment of Sir Stephen Bubb as chair of “Choice and Competition” on the NHS Futures Forum.1 This was revealed in the book ‘Never Again?’ by Nicholas Timmins of the King’s Fund.
Early on after his appointment as chair, Bubb met with NHS Partners Network’s director David Worskett and ‘agreed on the approach he (Bubb) would take, what the key issues are, and how to handle the politics.’ NHS Partners Network includes the likes of Assura, Circle (which took over Hinchingbrooke, the first NHS hospital to be privatized), Care UK (see information in this article on Care UK) and many more predatory private equity company owned private healthcare companies.
David Worskett held a second lengthy meeting with Stephen to discuss the position with him, under the auspices of "Reform", with only a handful of other (all like-minded) people present, including David Bennett, the chair of Monitor. David Worskett says: “He has also consistently taken the same line as us throughout.” “A number of members secured individual meetings with him, thus reinforcing and validating the messages.”
There are 17 members of the NHS Partners Network - these include several with financial connections to Lords and MPs, including Circle (Mark Simmonds MP) and Care UK (John Nash the chairman donated money to run Lansley’s office when he was shadow health secretary).
Mr Bubb describes another meeting with the NHS Partners Network on 1 June 2011 in his blog under the title ‘listening (not?)’. Bubb says: ‘went to a good meeting today with the NHS Confed Partners Network the CEO is the dynamic and amusing David Worskett )’.
Bubb informs his readers how ‘for political reasons the private sector were excluded from the Future Forum so in my area I feel its only right to ensure I hear their views.’ He concludes: ‘And very balanced and sensible they are.’ (The private sector was excluded from the Futures Forum as even the Coalition could see that their naked self-interest would have provided a field day for the media and those opposed to NHS privatisation.)
At the meeting on 1 June according to Bubb himself: ‘David later sends me some polling results they did. Worth repeating it here’. The data refers to a research project done in 2009, which Worskett told Bubb, was ‘fully validated to industry standards.’ The report showed that 74% of respondents strongly agreed (51%) or agreed (23%) that they "don't mind who owns or runs my NHS services as long as the quality of care is right".
This is important as Bubb included this in the Final report produced on 13th June by his working group even though it was out of date and produced by the NHS Partners' Network. In addition, it was produced before the Health and Social Care bill was introduced. Bubb said it was: ‘in line with a number of other surveys done since’, which unfortunately he couldn’t ‘dig out in the time available, but I am certain that the point which can be made with complete confidence.’ He also couldn’t find any more surveys in time for the final report.
In his book ‘Never Again?’ by Nicholas Timmins of the King’s Fund, Mr Worskett said: ‘throughout the forums deliberations, Bubb was “our only real route in”. He “fought valiantly to ensure that an element of competition remained in the system”, resulting in what David Worskett saw as a “pretty pro-competition…and that was mostly, though not entirely down to Steve Bubb.”
For more reading:
The Unedited document here
Stephen Bubb's collusion with the NHS Partner's Network here
Lansley meeting with NHS Partner's Network director before parliament had seen bill here