Privatisation to Blame for Track and Trace Disaster Not the NHS

© REUTERS / CARL RECINEThe coronavirus disease (COVID-19) contact tracing smartphone app of Britain's National Health Service (NHS) is displayed on an iPhone in this illustration photograph taken in Keele, Britain, September 24, 2020.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) contact tracing smartphone app of Britain's National Health Service (NHS) is displayed on an iPhone in this illustration photograph taken in Keele, Britain, September 24, 2020.  - Sputnik International
For over a week now I have been racked with the pain of an aggressive bout of Shingles and largely confined to bed and ordered to swallow daily medication designed to undermine the virus and relieve my pain.

However no amount of tablets in the world could relieve my anger at this dishonest, deceitful, and corrupt Tory government which is literally privatising the National Health Service before our eyes and playing an almighty con-trick on the public with the shabby and shameful assistance of the pathetically docile and deferential mainstream media.

The NHS Track and Trace system that Unscrupulous Johnson and Hopeless Hancock keep bleating on about doesn’t exist. They privatised it in June to reward Tory donors with lucrative government contracts despite the dubious and dodgy records of performance, including criminal behaviour, of those Tory supporting companies. This privatised system is an expensive, chaotic cock-up and no proper or honest journalist should ever allow it to be associated with the NHS.

Privatised Track and Trace System is a Shambles

The ‘world beating’, privatised scheme is not just incapable of testing enough people locally or timeously, it has had to send off almost 200,000 swabs and tests to other countries to be processed as the testing lab network introduced by the private providers has proved woefully understaffed, ill-prepared and overrun.

To add insult to world-wide embarrassment and bemusement we now learn the over-hyped but essential App system required to facilitate the effective operation of any test, track and trace scheme is not compatible with the existing NHS England data systems, meaning that users of the App cannot currently input positive or negative results from tests carried out at NHS hospitals or Public Health England Labs (PHE) labs, according to the app’s website.

And just in case anyone doubted the shambolic nature of the whole situation the information that tens of thousands of tests couldn’t be input to the new contact tracing App was discovered by accident when NHS England informed a man who was trying to input his test results that it wasn’t possible to do so only a day after a massive public launch costing tens of millions to advertise.

Track and Trace in England is NOT an NHS Run Service

It was launched on Thursday, after months of delay, but within twenty-four hours came the humiliating admission that more than 60,000 tests couldn’t be input, thereby making a mockery of the whole system. A comedic, expensive, politically criminal reality which was confirmed by the Tawdry Tory government last Saturday:

“The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said it is “working urgently” to make sure people can add their positive test results to the app who are not given a code to do so”.

What is infuriating and merits investigation by the Trades Description enforcement officers is the use of ‘NHS COVID-19 app’ to describe this privatised system on Twitter as the ignominious truth was revealed.

Repeat it over and over again. It is NOT an NHS Track and Trace system and it is NOT an NHS Covid-19 app.

It is a farce designed and delivered entirely by private companies at great cost to the public purse. Ministers like Hancock should be sacked or resign over this whole fiasco but to sack him would take leadership from Johnson, and to resign would require integrity from Hancock. Neither of them possesses leadership qualities or integrity.

Channel 4 Report Rare Exposure of Privatisation at Heart of NHS

Take the time to check out the Channel 4 News Report the other night which uniquely examined the background of the test and trace mess and exposed the fact that the responsibility for the current omnishambles lies with the Tory privateers and the companies they appointed, not the NHS.

The Tories were irresponsibly slow in setting up a track and tracing system to get to grips with the Covid19 threat. All across the world without exception the countries which have dealt best with the Covid19 pandemic and protected their citizens and economies are the ones who responded quickest to the threat and introduced robust and extensive test, track and trace systems.

The World Health Organisation advice couldn’t have been simpler so even dodos like Johnson and Hancock cannot claim they didn’t understand the “test, test, test” advice issued away back on 16th March. World Health Organisation head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said then to the world:

“… there has not been an urgent enough escalation in testing, isolation and contact tracing, which should be the "backbone" of the global response … it is not possible to "fight a fire blindfolded", and social distancing measures and handwashing will not alone extinguish the epidemic”.

Yet the Tories didn’t launch a track and trace system until 28th May, over two months after the World Health Organisation exhortations. An allocation of £10 billion was announced and testing was originally conducted at 8 Public Health England Labs and 44 NHS Labs. Scotland launched their own distinct Test and Protect scheme.

Within weeks the privatising instincts and intentions of the Tories in relation to the NHS were laid bare. The Covid19 crisis brings out the best in public servants like health and care workers but exposes the creed of greed which courses through the Tory blue veins of the rich and powerful.

Behind the scenes lobbying and promises of sinecures and future paid consultancy posts led to Hancock appointing consultancy firm Deloitte to take over the track and trace scheme. They built the website for booking tests, the one that advises thousands seeking tests to travel hundreds of miles to get one, and then sub-contracted private firms like Serco, Sodexo and G4S, to run testing centres. How much each company is being paid is not entirely clear, but no tendering process was carried out. Private consultancy firm Deloitte was awarded money allocated originally to the NHS to pick and chose their pals and pay them juicy sums to run testing centres under the flag of the NHS.

Test swabs were to be sent to a series of ‘Lighthouse Labs’ for processing with a mixture of private and public labs. The private labs used different equipment to the public ones leading to kit compatibility problems whenever help was requested. Latest figures show that the number of tests turned around in 24 hours has dropped from an uninspiring 32% a week ago to a positively pathetic 14% this week. So much for super duper Tory Peer Dido Harding who was appointed head of the new Health Protection Agency, whatever the hell that’s supposed to be, despite not possessing any health service skills, qualifications or experience. She has been a high heid yin at Sainsbury, Tesco and Talk but would you trust her to keep the health service well-funded and in public hands?

Outsourcing Giants are Modern Day Pirates Pillaging the NHS

If someone tests positive contact tracers employed by Serco and Sitel are paid to plot the infected person’s interactions with people during the infectious period. Serco’s tracing contract alone is worth £108 million but will rise to £432 million if it continues into 2021.

This huge privatisation of a vital health service responsibility is carried out in camouflage. Like Pirates in the lawless days of high seas robbery who used to sail under dishonest flags to dupe and surprise their unsuspecting victims before pillage and robbery, so the private companies running the track and trace system are allowed by government to describe their operation as NHS Test and Trace when it is nothing more or less than a profit driven exercise in ripping off the public purse and denying the NHS of vital monies.

The Pirate analogy is entirely appropriate here. Serco is a company soaked in dishonesty and exuding incompetence and fraud in equal doses. They were fined £19.2 million last year after a six year Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into a massive scam in connection with a prisoner electronic tagging scheme which unearthed fraudulent claims for tagging dead people, people who didn’t live at the addresses submitted and people who were actually in prison. The fraud raked in millions dishonestly for Serco and G4S and the admission to the fraud is what prevented a criminal trial.

Under the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) scheme Serco and G4S avoided criminal charges by paying back millions to the Ministry of Justice, admitting guilt to three of the many charges and paying fines and SFO investigation costs. G4S paid £121 million back to the Ministry of Justice, Serco paid back £70 million. G4S paid a fine of £38.5 million and £5.9 million costs to the SFO. Serco paid £19.2 million and £3.7 million respectively.

Of G4S the SFO director Lisa Osofsky said:

“G4S Care & Justice repeatedly lied to the Ministry of Justice, profiting to the tune of millions of pounds and failing to provide the openness, transparency, and overall good corporate citizenship that UK taxpayers expect and deserve from companies entering into government contracts,”

Her comments on Serco were equally damning. They were, she said:

“engaged in a concerted effort to lie to the Ministry of Justice in order to profit unlawfully at the expense of UK taxpayers”.

Companies Guilty of Criminal Fraud Given Multi-Million NHS Contracts

Deloitte was complicit in the 2011-2013 electronic tagging scandal as they were supposed to monitor and check the activities and books of Serco and G4S but failed miserably. They were investigated by the Financial Reporting Council and pled guilty to financial incompetence charges coughing up £4.2 million to pay a fine that was reduced by £2 million because they pleaded guilty. Clearly, deep pockets in the corporate world ensures you avoid proper justice. Imagine just how much Serco and G4S defrauded the public purse by if they agreed to pay back £191 million in connection with their criminal scam?

Both companies pay for expensive PR to try and convince us these criminal frauds were the actions of rogue directors and not part of the DNA of outsourcing firms existing like parasites on billions from the public purse. The Serco contract to house 5,000 asylum seekers awarded last year is worth £1.9 billion alone. It reminds me of the consciously dishonest defence against illegal phone hacking offered up by the putrid News of the World before the extent of their illegality was partially exposed and they were compelled to close down the rag.

Deloitte, Serco, G4S, Sodexo, Sitel and several other profit crazed outfits desperate to get their hands-on public money which should be invested in public services are the villains behind the test and trace system in England and Wales. It should NEVER be referred to as ‘NHS Track and Trace’. How can companies like Serco with their criminal past continue to secure massive public contracts?  Serco’s CEO is a former Bullingdon Club member and brother of recently retired Conservative MP Nicholas Soames. His name is Rupert Soames and he has said he wants Serco to:

“cement the position of the private sector” in the NHS supply chain.

The current junior health Minister is called Edward Argar. Guess who he worked for before being elected to Parliament? Yep. He was Head of Public Affairs for Serco. The contact tracing contract they were awarded was not subject to any tender.

Deloitte has advised the Tories for years on how to cut NHS budgets through staff reductions and increased outsourcing. Now they are in the heart of the health service and in charge of a vital service. The track and tracing disasters are theirs, but they will seek to shift blame onto the NHS and hope to undermine public confidence in it and support for it. They must not be allowed to succeed.

Hidden under all the headlines of anti-lockdown protests the other day, the Tories have removed ear-wax syringing from the NHS, and a private pharmaceutical NHS supplier has raised the price of Lithium tablets from £3 to £87 a packet for people with bipolar. These are not isolated decisions. The no-deal Brexit Johnson is hoping for, and the free trade deal with America are absolutely critical dangers to the survival of the NHS. It is one of the many reasons Scottish independence is now so popular. We love the NHS and we will not allow the cold, cruel, callous and unrepresentative Tories in London sell it off. The NHS is being privatised before our eyes. We will defend ours in Scotland via independence. England and Wales must mobilise decent citizens and the trade union movement to defend theirs before it is too late.

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