#10 Hiring of healthcare lobbyist raises privatization concerns

Rishi Sunak has appointed a private health lobbyist with links to a range of controversial clients to advise him in Downing Street, raising concerns about further privatization within the NHS.

Bill Morgan, a founding partner of public relations and lobbying firm Evoke Incisive Health, joined No 10 as a health policy adviser earlier this month, where he is expected to help improve efficiency of the NHS.

He previously served as an adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care for two months but continued at the same time as lead counsel for Incisive Health, according to his LinkedIn page, raising questions about a potential conflict of interest. between its public role and that of the company. clients.

In a speech to the Confederation of British Industry last week, Sunak underlined his commitment to the health service, saying: “When it comes to the NHS, we all share the same ambition… to give everyone in the country the best possible care, free at the point of use. »

However, the Prime Minister’s views on private healthcare have received renewed attention after the Guardian reported he was registered with a private GP who charges £250 for a consultation.

Morgan’s arrival at No. 10 will highlight some of her most controversial clients during her nine years at Evoke Incisive Health. Virgin Care was one when it controversially sued the NHS after losing to a rival group of in-house NHS providers and a social enterprise over an £82million contract to provide medical services to children in Surrey in 2016.

The company, which claimed there were “serious shortcomings in the procurement process”, later secured an out-of-court settlement. Six clinical commissioning groups and NHS England paid Virgin Care £1.57million. Surrey County Council handed over a further £440,000 and at least another £243,000 was diverted from frontline NHS services to cover legal costs.

Another Incisive Health client, private mental health care provider Cygnet, ran Whorlton Hall Specialist Hospital in County Durham, where 10 staff were arrested in 2019 after a BBC documentary Panorama exposed cruelty and abuse towards people with autism and learning disabilities. The 17-bed hospital, which he had taken over months before, was then closed.

Another Cygnet hospital, Bury Hudson, was placed under special measures in September and ordered to improve safety after its overall performance was deemed ‘inadequate’, following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission in June when inspectors said patients told them they were “bullied and abused by their peers and staff” and did not feel safe on the wards.

Sara Gorton, health officer at union Unison, said: ‘Appointments like this will do nothing to reassure the public that the NHS is not in the government’s crosshairs for more privatisation. Ministers should prioritize the interests of patients over ideology and private enterprise.

The Guardian understands that Morgan, whose appointment was approved by the Cabinet Office’s property and ethics team, has now sold his stake in the business.

Morgan’s former company also represents the Independent Healthcare Providers Network, which was established in 2005 to give voice to private healthcare companies.

Evoke Incisive Health represents several companies that have won major NHS contracts, including Orchard Therapeutics, Guardant Health and Spirit Health. They have also worked with the General Medical Council, the Global Lung Cancer Coalition and campaign group 38 Degrees.

A government source said: ‘This government has made a record investment in the NHS and a record number of doctors and nurses working there. It will never be sold to the private sector. Evoke Incisive Health declined to comment.

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