“Optum CEO resigns from top NHS Job, Optum partner replaces him”

“This is an everyday story of the sordid revolving door between US Health insurance company United Health and the NHS.

In the UK, United Health’s subsidiary Optum sells the NHS what it needs in order to morph into a version of United Health – the previous employer of NHS England’s boss Simon Stevens.

With NHS England’s blessing, Optum is all over the NHS, installing their technology & redesigning the NHS through its use.

Optum sells the NHS:

Commissioning support services
Scriptswitch decision support for GP prescribing (which United Health UK acquired in 2009) is in most GP surgeries.
Referral management services
GP Empower (accelerating large scale GP practices

Integrated Care Systems support: “Optum® brings practical hands-on experience having delivered integrated care for over 20 years in the US. Our tried and tested approach has helped systems deliver proven results.” This updates an earlier brochure on accountable care systems/organisations which is no longer available. However NHS For Sale quotes Optum’s now defunct webpage: “We currently operate 26 accountable care organisations in the U.S., and are supporting sustainability and transformation partnerships in the U.K. to manage population health risk and deliver care as an integrated group of providers.”

The overall aim is to control, sideline and override doctors’ treatment decisions – as we can see through NHS England’s consultation on stopping funding numerous elective care treatments and its mandatory Integrated Urgent Care Services specification. This removes patients’ direct access to clinicians and redirects them through NHS 111 to a clinical advisory service that works off the algorithms in a clinical decision support tool.

And now it has its finger firmly in the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence pie – the organisation responsible for providing evidence-based guidance and advice to the NHS.

The revolving door that connnects United Health, Optum and the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence

This concerns:

former United Health Director Andrew Witty
Lord Darzi (head of the Imperial College department which is partnered with OptumLabs, a United Health business); and
a new public-private partnership in the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence called the “Accelerated Access Collaborative“, that’s about pushing new technology and drugs through the NHS.
It puts Optum centre stage in the Accelerated Access Collaborative. Now there’s a surprise. Or not. If you have been following United Health’s relatively rapid takeover of the NHS.

As a result of these shenanigans, we would treat any new recommendation from NICE with a pinch of salt.

Here is a short Witty timeline:

March 2017 – Andrew Witty leaves CEO position at Glaxo Smith Kline
August 2017 – Witty joins UnitedHealth’s Board of Directors
November 2017 – Following the Accelerated Access Review, the Department of Health appoints Witty as head of the Accelerated Access Collaborative. The job is to fast track drugs & technology into the NHS, to start April 2018
March 2018 – United Health announces Witty to be new Optum CEO, to start July 2018
Andrew Witty must have been rumbled somewhere along the line as he graciously resigned from the Government position in March 2018, due to the enormous conflict of interest of him starting as Optum CEO in July 2018. Ignored of course was the huge conflict of interest in hiring Witty in the first place while he was a Director of UnitedHealth.

And who replaced him? Lord Darzi.

Who is Lord Darzi

I am tired of writing about Lord Darzi. He stalks the NHS like a zombie. He was behind the New Labour government’s massive, failed and costly privatisation of elective NHS services in the horrible Independent Sector Treatment Centres – one of which totally messed up my son’s broken wrist – twice, before an NHS hospital fixed it for him.

This is what his nasty scheme has come to now. Regardless, he has returned to push his idea a second time as Accountable Care – with the apparent support of the Labour Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth. This time from his perch in the Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) at Imperial College, London.

Which, surprise surprise, is an OptumLabs partner.

What is OptumLabs

OptumLabs (launched in 2013) is all about United Health number crunching and framing raw patient data for academics to play with to derive the “best treatments” for patients.

OptumLabs is desperate to pass itself off as pioneering and respectable in the academic research field. But reality of the profit motive and UnitedHealth’s track record of

“deception, manipulation of data and outright fraud”

(see the Ingenix case ) means their number crunching will most likely point to treatments that United Health finds most profitable, not what’s best for patients. And OptumLabs is useful cover to collect patient data.

We pointed out some time ago Optum’s invidious position as a provider of commissioning support services, able to direct Clinical Commissioning Groups to commission Optum products. Now they have their fingers in the NICE pie too.”


What can WE do to save our NHS?

“Greetings, KONP supporters in the South West!
Important information from Keep Our NHS Public on…

Integrated Care Providers

The Government likes to bury its plans to defund, break-up and privatise the NHS in jargon. KONP are producing a series of videos to help you understand what’s going on…

NHS England is consulting on the contract for a new model of health and social care provision that threatens the break-up of the NHS into units run by less accountable ‘Integrated Care Providers’ – or ‘ICPs’. Each of these ‘business units’ would control spend and rationing of healthcare for populations of up to 500,000. These huge contracts will be eminently open to the private sector to compete for.

The ICPs will deliver the dangerous new restructuring plans of government which could see fragments of the NHS managed by non-NHS, non-statutory and therefore less accountable bodies. They are the embodiment of government plans to disperse the NHS and its staff, drive down public funding, promote private contracts and put cost limits and profit before patient safety.

Integrated Care Provider contracts:

Dis-integrate the NHS;
Give control to non-NHS bodies potentially beyond scrutiny;
Threaten public accountability;
Hand over control to these non-NHS bodies for 10-15 years;
Manage multi-billion-pound contracts for blocks of 500,000 population;
Open the door to private companies winning these contracts.

Please watch the video above and share on social media to help spread the word about the Government’s deliberate and insidious privatisation plans.

You can also visit our website:


and our Facebook Page:


for more information, videos and links.

For a written explanation of ICPs and what the represent for the NHS please read and share this briefing (broken link) by HCT co-chair and KONP campaigner Louise Irvine.

How can you help?
1. Along with our friends at We Own It


and Health Campaigns Together


we have created a petition


calling on the Government to;
a) Abandon the Integrated Care Provider contract model:
b) Guarantee that any Integrated Care Provider organisations will be statutory organisations i.e. NHS bodies, not private providers.
c) Focus health improvement efforts on pressing the government for:

o Sufficient funding and staffing for health and social care.
o Social care to be brought into public provision, free at point of use
o Legislation to end the failed NHS contracting system and to renationalise the NHS: the only sound basis for service integration.



2. NHS England have launched a 12 week consultation on contracting arrangements for Integrated Care Providers. You can read the full consultation document here


Please let them know what you think by submitting a response before the consultation closes on the 26 October. You can do this online. HCT have created a document of a sample response


in case you wish to take some guidance from KONP and HCTs position.
You can also see a comprehensive written response:


to the proposed changes from the JR4NHS team who, along with the late Stephen Hawking, took Jeremy Hunt and ACOs to Judicial Review this year.

3. Share the KONP video, HCT and KONP briefing and the JR4NHS response to the NHSE consulation around your networks and on social media.

“Failure to halt rip-off drug deals costs the NHS £200m”

Owl says: Follow the (MPs involved in the pharmaceutical industry and Tory donors) money …

“The NHS is still overpaying for price-hiked drugs by hundreds of millions of pounds a year because the government has failed to use powers brought in to combat profiteering, The Times can reveal.

A Times investigation in 2016 exposed how several manufacturers had taken advantage of a loophole in NHS pricing rules to significantly increase the price of dozens of commonly prescribed drugs by up to 12,500 per cent. The government passed legislation in April last year to end the practice by giving the health secretary powers to impose a lower price for these generic drugs if taxpayers were being ripped off.

However, the government has failed to use these, with a Times analysis revealing that the NHS is continuing to spend more than £200 million a year on the extra costs created by the hikes.

Just 19 of the 70 drugs identified by this newspaper two years ago have undergone significant price reductions, amounting to about £150 million a year in savings to the NHS. The total extra cost of the price hikes across all 70 medicines was £370 million a year in 2016, meaning that at least £200 million is still being overspent annually. The figures are approximate because prescription data is not yet available for the second half of 2018.

The government has referred a number of cases to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which has opened at least nine investigations. These cases have been stalled after Pfizer and another drug company won an appeal against a record fine for increasing the price of an epilepsy treatment. The CMA is seeking permission to appeal against that verdict.

One company previously exposed by The Times, Atnahs, increased the price of seven medicines for which it was the sole UK manufacturer by up to 2,600 per cent. These included 50mg capsules of doxepin, an antidepressant, which rose from £5.71 and now costs £154 a packet. Atnahs was able to increase prices by dropping the brand name of the products, which were all out of patent, and relaunching them under generic names. Branded generics are subject to a profit cap but the NHS does not limit the price of unbranded generics. More than two years later, all seven medicines are at the same inflated prices.

Another firm, Concordia International, increased the cost of eye drops from £2.09 to £29.06 and has kept them at this level since 2016. An antidepressant which increased from £9.57 to £353.06 after being acquired by the company has risen further still in the past two years and now costs £386.53.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said that the overall spend on generic medicines went down compared to last year.”

A spokesman for Atnahs said the company’s pricing was “competitively benchmarked” and that it would adhere to any government guidance. Concordia International said it believed the generics system was working well and “the government may not see a need to use these prices controls”.

Case study

Melanie Woodcock, 47, credits the thyroid medication liothyronine with giving her a life. She used to take an alternative that left her “feeling sluggish, constant headaches, dizziness, nausea feeling all day, it even affected my vision, just a constant brain fog”.

“I wasn’t going out anywhere, I wasn’t living a life, I wasn’t going on holiday, I wasn’t doing anything because I didn’t have the energy,” she said.

When she first took liothyronine, a synthetic hormone known as T3, she said it “changed my whole outlook on life”. “I could think clearly I’d got a memory, my vision was better, I lost the achy joints,” she said. “No more living on Neurofen because I had headaches all the time and joint pain.”

Now doctors have stopped prescribing the drug after the price rose from 16p to £9.22 per tablet. The medicine only had one supplier for many years, but even though two companies have recently begun supplying it, the cost to the NHS has barely fallen.

Liothyronine is cheaply available in many European countries and after her prescription was stopped in July 2018, Ms Woodcock, a mother-of-two who lives in Banbury, Oxfordshire, turned to a “website that is aimed at bodybuilders for bulking up” which sells the drug at £31 a packet.

She said when she tried to go back to the alternative treatment, levothyroxine, she was hospitalised with violent illness and a headache so powerful she was unable to see.

Even the liothyronine she buys online has not solved the problem. “It’s not the same [as the NHS-prescribed version], I still feel sluggish, I still have a lack of energy. I’ve had to take several days off work.”

Ms Woodcock, who works in the security industry, said she couldn’t understand “how the government have allowed this to happen”.

Concordia International, which was previously the sole supplier of the medicine, said a high price was justified in order to guarantee a steady supply beause it was a niche product and difficult to manufacture.”

Source: The Times (pay wall)

“NHS hospitals warn of lack of preparation for winter as figures reveal next year will be ‘tougher than ever’ “

“The NHS is set to face an “even tougher winter” than the record-breaking crisis it weathered less than 10 months ago, as hospital bosses warn of staff and funding shortages.

Despite the government claiming the health service was “better prepared than ever” last year, ambulance queues tripled, there were fewer beds available and doctors wrote to Theresa May warning of patients “dying prematurely” in corridors.

Hospital leaders said the major issues of workforce, funding and social care remain unresolved, and figures released on Thursday show how an unprecedented summer heatwave has left no time to tackle the significant backlog in operations.

Theresa May has pledged an extra £20bn for the NHS by 2023 but this will not start to plug gaps until April 2019.

Meanwhile, hospital heads told The Independent funds usually held in reserve to add capacity in winter were already used up, or useless because there was no one to work.”


Torbay GPs may hace scuppered merger of Devon Clinical Commissioning Groups

“The Breeze can reveal GPs in South Devon have voted against plans to merge the area’s CCG with the rest of Devon.

Bosses from the clinical commissioning group made the revelation at a Torbay Council meeting last night.

Apparently, unless a majority of GPs back the idea they can’t do it.

GPs in the area are now being asked to explain their reasons as bosses look to save the merger plans.

To date the two CCGs have saved £4 million by working closely together. [Owl: yeah, right – pinch of salt or whole salt cellar needed here …!]

Torquay councillor Swithin Long, who asked questions at the meeting, said: “At the Overview and Scrutiny Board last night the CCG advised that they were proceeding with the merger – however there is a fly in the ointment.

“In September a poll of GPs was done across the whole of Devon.

“In the rest of Devon (excluding South Devon and Torbay) 59 voted for the merger, 13 against and 3 abstentions.

“In South Devon and Torbay 12 GP practices voted in favour, 14 against and 2 abstentions (so 50% not in favour).

“The meeting was advised that the merger cannot go ahead without the majority of GPs in Torbay and South Devon voting in favour.

“Discussions will be proceeding with the GPs in Torbay and South Devon to see what their concerns are and the CCG will be coming back to Overview and Scrutiny at a date to be confirmed.”

A spokesperson for Devon’s clinical commissioning groups said: “Over the next two months we’re taking the time to meet up with local GP practices in South Devon and Torbay to listen to their views.

“The feedback we receive will help us shape what is the right thing to do next.

“In parallel we’re simply keeping the door open to the possibility of merger by working with NHS England on the next steps.”

For more about the meeting click here:

Failing our vulnerable children – we sink even lower

“The NHS and councils need to collaborate to develop a system to support children with mental health problems, the Local Government Association has said.

Its call came in the wake of a Education Policy Institute report, published yesterday, which revealed a 26% increase in the number of children referred to mental health services.

At the same time, a quarter of councils have phased out support they offer to children including schools-based services, family counselling and support for those exposed to domestic abuse.

One in four children referred for mental health support were rejected, the report said.

David Laws, chair of the EPI, said it was “very worrying” that services and support were being cut back just as demand was rising.

“A large number of children referred to mental health services are already rejected for treatment, and the follow up for these children looks unsatisfactory,” he said.

“It is also disturbing that many mental health providers seem unwilling or unable to provide even basic data on their services – the government should take steps to compel all providers to report regularly on their standards and performance, and this data should be collected and reported nationally.”

Responding to the findings, the LGA highlighted the £3bn funding gap that will face children’s services by 2025.

“As a result, many councils are being forced to cut early intervention work, including youth services, which helps children avoid reaching crisis point, perform better at school and avoid mental health issues in later life,” said Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board.

“This has been compounded by government cuts to councils’ public health funding, which also helps young people to get the best start in life.”

She said there was a need for an “urgent root and branch review” of children’s mental health services and local government and the health should together develop a system that “says yes” to children, rather than rejecting them.”