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Letter: Is Genesis Care the Right Kind of a New Beginning?

Published on: 18 Jan, 2022
Updated on: 18 Jan, 2022

From: Robert Oulton

former GP

The proposed new Cancer Care centre to be commissioned by the RSCH has been, up until now, discussed mainly in terms of the planning application to create a new multi-storey hospital car park. There was no suggestion that an NHS site was being handed over to a private hospital, although that is routine in today’s world of public/private partnerships.

It’s just one more example of the fire-sale of valuable, publicly owned NHS land that’s been accelerating over the last 25 years.

Vicky Mumford, assistant director of nursing cancer for the RSCH, was fulsome in her praise of Genesis Care, the company that will provide the new hospital, explaining that the new centre was of “paramount” importance in attracting “the right people” to work in Guildford, and offer “the best treatment”.

She views the importance of the partnership with Genesis in this way: “This is a wonderful, unique opportunity for us to partner with another organisation to provide both NHS and private healthcare with equipment that gives that opportunity for world-class outcomes. Cancer patients deserve the opportunity to have ease of access to their treatment. They deserve the best treatment.”

A glance at Wikipedia’s entry on Genesis Care will give you an inkling of possibly why the company might help attract the “right people” to work in Guildford – its doctors and managers have “a substantial stake in the business” (it doesn’t say whether the nurses, cleaners and technicians do).

The company is Australian in origin, and has gradually expanded globally, and in 2016 a majority share-holding (56%) was bought for A$1.6 billion (£800 million) by a consortium of China Resources – a vast Chinese state-owned corporation (2019 revenue $91 billion) and Macquarie Capital – an Australian global financial services corporation managing A$373 (£185) billion of assets.

Macquarie is most notable here in the UK for its involvement in UK water companies. Its controversial stewardship of Thames Water ended in 2017, having sold the company loaded with an extra £2 billion debt; but in August 2021 it bought a controlling stake in Southern Water, which in July had been fined £90 million for pumping raw sewage into the sea from the Kent and Hampshire coast. The nature of the People’s Republic of China, of course, needs no further elaboration.

We don’t know what the business plan of the RSCH’s Genesis Care cancer centre is, but Vicky Mumford says it will treat a mixture of NHS and private patients. Like most of the UK’s curious archipelago of little private hospitals, who seem somehow to evade the prevailing NHS model of hospital closure and centralisation, it seems likely a regular income stream of NHS funds (aka taxpayers’ money) will be not only important for its profitability, but essential for its viability.

Profitability is the keyword here because limited liability companies have a primary duty to secure as good a profit level as they can for their shareholders – it’s the bottom line that counts. The problem for the NHS, as more services are handed over to such companies, is its purpose begins to change from one of public service to one of servicing corporate business interests.

In three months, the new Surrey Heartland Integrated Care Board will assume responsibility for pretty much the whole of the NHS budget for Surrey. It will have the difficult task of divvying up what will almost certainly be a very tight budget among all the competing health providers in Surrey – GPs, hospitals, community services, mental health services etc.

Everyone will want a big a piece of the pie as possible. But with that enormous corporate power behind it, somehow I think Genesis Care won’t be kept waiting for their slice.

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