Saturday, 31 March 2012

Why did the BBC ignore the NHS bill?

It seems that the BBC's reporting on the Health and Social Care Bill (now the Health and Social Care Act) was inadequate. Why? Naturally, the BBC likes to be uncontroversial. Perhaps they wanted to appease Conservative ministers who, if they had their way, would undoubtedly privatise the BBC as well. Or maybe it's because the Chairman of the BBC Trust is a Conservative Lord? But a little investigation reveals that there could be more to it than that.

The BBC is governed by two management boards, the BBC Trust and the Executive Board. The Executive Boards manages the BBC, the Trust ensures that standards are kept to. In theory, either of these boards could censor reporting on the NHS, and either of these boards could demand an increase in reporting. So if the BBC's reporting was inadequate, one of these boards is (at least partially) to blame.

I have found that two people (one on each board) have remarkably substantial links with private healthcare companies, to the extent that they would certainly benefit financially from the NHS bill.
Dr Mike Lynch is a non-executive director on the BBC's Executive Board. But he is also a non-executive director of Isabel Healthcare Ltd, a private company specialising in medical software. It goes without saying that such a company would benefit from opening the healthcare market to private companies. In a submission to NICE, the CEO of Isabel Healthcare complained that the structure of the NHS negatively impacted on his company.

The constant hurdle we have found in the NHS is that Isabel 'does not fit'...[this] says more about the structure of the NHS and how innovation is viewed. ”

He goes on to add that the NHS doesn't value innovation enough, the implication being that privatisation would be better for his company.

The same Dr Mike Lynch is also a director of Autonomy PLC, a computing company whose customers include Isabel Healthcare (!), Blue Cross Blue Shield (a health insurance firm), AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, and several other pharmaceutical companies. 

And the same Dr Mike Lynch is on the advisory board of Apax Partners, which describes itself as “one of the leading global investors in the Healthcare sector” and has invested over 2.5 billion in the area.

The other person is the Chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten. While he's not at the BBC, you can find him working as a non-executive director for Russell Reynolds Associates, a consulting firm that offers services in healthcare (amongst other things). The company's website includes a very sinister passage about the move towards private healthcare, and how business leaders must attempt to change the cultural reaction to privatisation:

The emphasis must be on putting robust succession plans in place - to develop and recruit leaders with the experience and competencies needed to implement significant change within organizations - both operational and cultural - allowing the industry to build on both past successes and lessons learned, while embracing the new market reality.”

The company seems to have a broad range of private healthcare clients: “Pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms rely on us...Health services organizations turn to us for leaders...We provide medical technology, devices and diagnostics companies with leaders.” 
Lord Patten, Chairman of the BBC Trust

The same Lord Patten is a European Advisory Board member for a company called Bridgepoint. Social Investigations have already investigated this company here. The gist is that the company has over £1.1 billion invested in private healthcare.

The same Lord Patten is European Adviser to Hutchison Whampoa Ltd, whose subsidiary, Hutchison China Meditech, is a fast-growing Chinese healthcare company. In a grim anticipation of the NHS bill's success, an article from the Daily Mail in 2011 advised investors: “Overall, Chi-Med is loss-making, reflecting heavy investment, but it should move into profit next year and the long-term outlook is very healthy.”

So we have two very senior BBC board members, both of whom have huge links with private healthcare. Could this be the reason for the under-reporting? It seems likely, but instinct tells me there might be even more to the story than this.

The register of interests for the BBC Trust is here, and that of Dr Mike Lynch is here.


  1. I was amazed at the complete lack of reporting that day on BBC about the death (privatisation) of the NHS... I had been notified by 38 Degrees that the NHS 'death bill' was passed and waited later to hear it reported on BBC 'News', but alas... total silence! This BIAS needs to be massively highlighted publicly - please post it on Facebook etc (I will) - the BBC is totally corrupt if it does not keep balanced reporting of major issues like this!

  2. The bias is obvious - it is one of the reasons the opposition to the bill was muted. The bbc and others starved it of air. Sooner or later the truth will out i hope.

  3. I thought their website was a little better but radio and tv utterly trivialised the debate.

    I complained several times to the BBC about the inadequacy of the broadcast coverage wondering what lay behind it. Met with a wall of silence - no acknowledgement of the complaint- zippo- until I received a questionnaire about how I found the complaints procedure.... And this was outsourced to some other company!!

    If the situation wasn't so appalling it would be funny.

  4. I complained to the BBC lots of times and got the template email, the same as other 38 degreers so plenty must have complained.

    The BBC is State Television and aren't they showing it? The tanker drivers strike was hyped up so that the public would turn against the strikers, but that backfired. (The Have Your Say comments on that was full of those saying the BBC had gone over the top.)

    Now we see even more reasons why the BBC wanted the NHS to be turned over to the privates. Sad days.

  5. A nice piece of writing. Many thanks.

    Now that we know our enemy, what do we plan to do about it?

  6. Thanks for taking the trouble to write about this, and to add some useful informtion to the pot. Thought you might find this of at least tangential relevance: