Spire Healthcare spends £12m to snap up private GP business 

Spire snapped up a private GP services provider for £12million as it expands its business amid growing demand in the UK.

The FTSE 250 healthcare group bought The Doctors Clinic Group, which operates 22 clinics and has more than 700 corporate clients.


The business, which employs 279 people – two-thirds of which are clinicians – is expected to deliver £11million in revenues this year and start turning a profit in 2024.

Spire said the purchase would broaden its healthcare offering amid ‘increased demand’ for its UK services as the NHS struggles to cope with staff shortages and growing waiting lists.

It added the acquisition would complement the work done by its 39 private hospitals and eight clinics across England, Wales and Scotland and allow it to capitalise on the growing need for face-to-face GP visits among Britons.

Spire also noted that demand for occupational health, another service provided by The Doctors Clinic, had been growing in the UK by 7 per cent annually over the last five years as companies sought out better ways to support their employees.

‘The Doctors Clinic Group will provide Spire with a strong platform to enter and expand in the fast-growing occupational health sector, and to increase our capacity to meet the burgeoning need for private GP services,’ said Spire boss Justin Ash.

Spire highlighted that The Doctors Clinic had a ‘particularly strong’ footprint in central London, which would allow it to gain a foothold in the capital’s primary care market.

The firm’s shares rose 0.5 per cent, or 1p, to 221p.

Spire’s move to expand its presence into occupational health comes as businesses across the UK struggle with a tight labour pool as many workers left the job market due to long-term sickness during the pandemic.

Government ‘extremely concerned’ about children’s services in Devon

The government says it is “extremely concerned” about Devon County Council’s failing children’s services.

“Now considered to be the “third or fourth worst in the country.”

Ollie Heptinstall www.radioexe.co.uk 

The comment by the Department for Education comes after Devon’s MPs were last week told the county’s children’s services are now considered to be the “third or fourth worst in the country.”

Unless there are signs of improvement, they are likely to be taken into special measures next year. This would involve Devon being stripped of its responsibilities and having children’s services placed into an independently run trust.

The council’s children’s services department was rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in January 2020, while Devon was also recently hit with a government improvement notice for its services for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND) which it runs in partnership with NHS Devon.

The Conservative-run council and NHS Devon both apologised after a revisit by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission in May found that progress had not been made in fixing four areas of “significant concern” identified in December 2018.

To help try to turn the service around, the council has adopted an improvement plan while changes have been made to the department’s leadership. Melissa Caslake recently left as director of children’s services, with Somerset’s former children’s lead Julian Wooster put in interim charge.

On Mr Wooster’s watch, the Ofsted rating for Somerset’s children’s services rose from ‘inadequate’ in 2015 to ‘good’ in its most recent inspection this July.

Council leader John Hart (Conservative, Bickleigh & Wembury) told last week’s cabinet meeting the council is “taking this very seriously,” while a spokesperson added it is their “main priority.”

But time could be running out at County Hall, with a Department for Education spokesperson warning in a statement: “We are extremely concerned about the current performance of Devon County Council’s children’s social care and local SEND services.

“The children’s commissioner is working closely with the council to ensure that appropriate actions are carried out to improve children’s services in Devon and is closely supporting the recruitment of a new director of children’s services.”

They added the children’s commissioner will be providing a progress update to the department in the new year, which will consider whether a full commissioner review will be required.

Last week, Exeter’s Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said he is “really concerned the political leadership of Devon County Council does not understand the gravity of the situation they are in.”

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service seven or eight other councils’ children’s services have been placed into a trust and warned: “This would incur significant extra costs which would fall on Devon’s council tax payers.”

A spokesperson for Devon County Council said: “We are working closely with government on our improvement plans for children’s social care and SEND services and recognise that there is more to do.

“Improving our support for children in Devon is our main priority.  We have a new structure and processes in place and believe that in collaboration with the DfE and other partners, and families of children and young people in Devon with SEND, we are on the right path.”

Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital focuses on patients in most need

Services are being reduced and medics focusing on patients “with the most needs”, says the chief medical officer at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.


Steep rises in Covid-19, flu, Strep A and other winter illnesses are causing long waits at the hospital said chief medical officer Adrian Harris.

He urged people to “think very carefully” before going to hospital.

“Sadly how we will cope is by having to reduce the suite of services that we offer,” he said.

“We will have to focus as we do in any period of crisis on our patients with the most needs,” he said.

He added that longer waits were “regrettable”, but “the number of patients turning up and the complexity or severity of the illnesses or injuries” made it unavoidable.

“I’d ask the public to think very carefully when they attend whether it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

Mark Hamilton, chief medical officer at the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, advised people to use pharmacies, GPs or the NHS advice line, unless it was for a life-threatening condition.

“Every person that uses those services helps us to treat somebody else in the Emergency Department,” he said.

“It’s particularly difficult at the moment.

“Everything that we can do to try and treat the right patients by using other services means that it’s much easier for people to do their jobs.”

Devon second home owners clobbered with 100% tax hike

Second home owners in some of Devon’s most desirable hotspots are to be clobbered with a double Council Tax bill. The move has been passed unanimously by councillors in the South Hams, a district which includes Dartmouth, Salcombe, Hope Cove and other sought-after seaside destinations.

Guy Henderson www.devonlive.com 

They say it means owners will now have to pay their “fair share”. The council will now adopt the 100% Council Tax Second Homes Premium as soon as legislation allows. Nearly one in 12 homes across the district is a second home, and that figure is much higher in the coastal towns.

South Hams Council declared a housing crisis in September 2021 and backed its declaration with a 12-point action plan which included lobbying Government to allow local councils to charge double Council Tax on second or holiday homes to ensure they contribute fairly towards the services they receive.

Their lobbying proved successful when in May this year the Government published the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill which included proposals aimed at addressing the negative impact of second homes on the supply of homes for local people. The Bill is likely to become law from April 2024 at the earliest.

Leader of South Hams District Council, Cllr Judy Pearce said: “The long-term viability of communities within the South Hams has been detrimentally affected by the level of second home ownership. The sheer quantity of second homes means that house prices are pushed upwards.

“This can deny a home to a local resident as prices are pushed outside of what they can reasonably afford. This is especially acute for the younger generation.

“I went to Westminster in November to speak to a House of Lords Select Committee to discuss the challenges around short-term lets and the impact that has in the South Hams. It’s truly concerning that with just under 4,000 second homes in the district, this means that nearly one in every 12 homes is a second home.

“We’re not declaring war on second homes. We’re simply levelling the field to make it easier for our local residents to find somewhere to live, let alone somewhere to buy.

“We know that the majority of people can’t afford the prices of houses around the area at the moment. We do stand in solidarity with our local residents because they all have a right to have somewhere decent to live.”

Cllr Julian Brazil, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat group, added: “This is absolutely the right way forward. It will make a massive difference to us. To people who say it is an attack on second homeowners, it is not. What it is, is asking them to pay a fair share to our communities. They’re in the lucky position to own not one, but two houses, when many of our local families here struggle to own just one.

“The fact that they pay a little bit more should be compared to the increase in value of their second homes. Before the latest hiccup in the economy, house prices in the South Hams increased by around 25% in the last year. Increases of hundreds of thousands of pounds. We are asking them to pay a little bit extra to support the services that we struggle to deliver.

“I’d like to pay tribute to the Leader of the Council. She has worked incredibly hard lobbying MPs for them to understand the issues. I tabled a similar motion about 15 years ago without support but, we have got there in the end.”

Ministers ignoring own risk advice by refusing to negotiate with striking unions

Ministers’ refusal to negotiate with striking union leaders on pay goes against the Government’s own official advice on resolving industrial disputes, i can reveal.

Jane Merrick inews.co.uk

The Government’s Risk Register, which assesses the likelihood and impact of different threats to the UK, says “negotiation and mediation” is encouraged “as a means of resolving industrial action both before and during a strike”.

Union leaders have said they will pause the wave of strikes if ministers agree to discuss workers’ pay, which is the number one issue at the heart of the disputes hitting the NHS, airports, railways and other key public services this month.

But while Health Secretary Steve Barclay has held meetings with Pat Cullen, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, he has refused to negotiate on the issue of pay. He has also declined a suggestion from Ms Cullen to use the Acas mediation service.

Ministers have also declined negotiations with the three unions representing striking ambulance workers, and the PCS union on behalf of Border Force staff.

Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, said the revelation showed ministers were being “cavalier with their own rules” and that ministers are “holding the country to ransom”.

The 2020 Risk Register says the threat of industrial action can be tackled through prevention, including “wherever possible, government encourages negotiation and mediation, such as via the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, as a means of resolving industrial action both before and during a strike”.

It also says the impact of strikes can be lessened through monitoring, including “UK Government and the devolved administrations work together closely to monitor impending strike action and resolve it where possible”.

The Risk Register warns that consequences of industrial action may include “disruption to essential services, particularly transport, health and education; disruption to business (via lost working hours); possible public order challenges; economic damage (particularly for transport sector industrial action)”.

Union leaders have warned that ministers’ failure to get round the negotiating table is prolonging the disputes. But the Government has insisted it cannot meet the demands for above-inflation pay rises because it would hit frontline public services.

Rishi Sunak said on Monday he was prepared to hold out for “months” before giving into “unreasonable” pay demands of unions.

But Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The Government could have stopped these strikes taking place. It is clear from the deal done in Scotland a solution can be found and that unions are more than willing to negotiate.

“Instead, it looks like the Government is being cavalier with its own rules, breaking its own Risk Register rules by refusing to negotiate on pay. What a state to be in.

“It’s Steven Barclay who is holding the country to ransom, not the unions. He will have to carry the can if patients suffer. This Government is guilty of criminal negligence in its deliberate hollowing out of the NHS long before now. If the staff exodus is to be sorted there needs to be decent pay. In fighting for that, those taking strike action are actually trying to save the service.”

A PCS spokesperson said: “The Government should practice what it preaches. PCS stands ready to negotiate whenever the Government wants to come to the table. Only then will we be able to resolve this dispute.”

Unison head of health, Sara Gorton, said: “The Government’s let everyone down. Ministers have known this was coming for months and should have made some effort to resolve the dispute. Instead they’ve dug in their heels and done nothing.”

In an interview with the Daily Mail, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “The Government is acting fairly and reasonably and will always continue to do so. I’m going to do what I think is right for the long-term interests of the country – combating inflation.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We regret the decision taken by unions to strike and we greatly value the work of all their members across the country. We will do all we can to mitigate the impact of this action, but the only way to stop the disruption completely is for union bosses to get back round the table and call off these damaging strikes.

“We want to ensure people are paid fairly, and we have been reasonable in our approach to agreeing to the independent pay review bodies’ recommendations for public sector pay rises.

“An inflation-matching pay increase of 11 per cent for all public sector workers would cost £28 billion, worsening debt and embedding inflation, which makes everyone poorer. That would be a cost to each household of just under £1,000.”

Army reservists could in future be asked to play a larger role in certain crises, according to a government report on the future of resilience, to end reliance on under-pressure Armed Forces.

The report from the Cabinet Office warns that with the Armed Forces “facing pressure as risks multiply” at home and abroad, personnel “cannot be the first port of call whenever an emergency hits”.

Any changes would see the reserves play a “greater role” in military aid to the civil authorities (Maca) protocol operations and in other areas, and use of the Armed Forces for more routine tasks will be “an indication of policy failure”.