Britain’s Socialised Health Service Paying for Staff to Go Private

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - MARCH 16: Nurses in the accident and emergency dept of Selly Oak Hospital work during a busy shift on March 16, 2010 in Birmingham, England. As the UK gears up for one of the most hotly contested general elections in recent history it is expected that that …
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

A group of staff on Britain’s socialised National Health Service (NHS), originally hired by an agency set up to help “reduce health inequalities”, are having private health insurance given to them courtesy of the taxpayer. 

The staff, who are eligible for private dental and optical care, were taken on by the Health Development Agency in 2005, which was transferred to The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) later the same year.

The Health Development Agency was set up in 2000 to “develop the evidence base to improve health and reduce health inequalities”.

NICE, an agency that frequently rejects potentially life-changing drugs for use by the general public because they would cost too much, paid out £3,091.49 last year for insurance for 19 members of staff, according to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request obtained by the Times.

A separate request found that Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spent £7,982 on three members of staff. Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust paid £16,615 for medical health insurance for three people last year.

Jonathan Isaby, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, commented:

“It’s deeply concerning if health regulators are unwilling to use the NHS. That these staff are tasked with reducing health inequalities rubs salt into the wound, given they have cover that millions can’t afford.”

Roger Goss, the co-director of Patient Concern, added:

“Why should we take any notice of Nice’s vast output telling everyone else how to behave when a team set up to reduce health inequalities then flouts that principle by giving its own staff preferential healthcare?”

The staff receiving private health insurance at Norwich and Hull hospitals are also thought have originally been hired by a private agency, and the NHS trust had to honour the terms of their original contracts.

Barrie Brown, the national officer for health at trade union Unite, said:

“It is astonishing that we have the NHS contracting out to the private sector health care for certain privileged categories of staff. This is public money being thrown at profit-hungry private healthcare companies.”

A spokeswoman for NICE said that it had nothing to add to the initial FoI response and could not comment on why the agency introduced the perks.