Atos, KPMG and the NHS. Be afraid. Be very afraid

In 2005 I had been a retired philosophy teacher in the Netherlands for several years. Pensioned civil servants were entitled to a rebate on their medical costs. It wasn’t much, but I liked this State-run system, called ZVO. In that year the international consultancy firm KPMG began managing ZVO. It worked well until 1 Jan 2006, when the Dutch healthcare system was almost completely privatized (the first in the EU). ZVO was abolished in order to enact a new health insurance law [1]. KPMG engineered this by paying out less and less each year after that, ‘to ease the pain,’ as we were told. I did not know that ZVO was outsourced to KPMG in 2005.

Privatization gave the insurers near-total control over medical financing. Provisions were dangerously downgraded, to increase profits. In December 2008 a specialist informed me that I had a life-threatening illness. I was 66 and found an age limit of 65 for adequate treatment. I moved to Uppsala Sweden, where specialists saved my life [2]. How could the supposedly humanitarian EU allow such practices (many residents were disadvantaged)? I decided to investigate and stumbled upon Atos, an information technology (IT) company that began by fusing the French IT firm Origin and part of Philips (Dutch) in 1996. It acquired the British and Dutch divisions of KPMG Consultancy in 2002 [3], was named Atos Origin and became Atos after further expansion in 2011[4].

The firm’s Atos Healthcare section (UK) began work for DWP in 1998. It is contracted to them through to 2015 [5]. Its morally and medically questionable disability benefit assessment programme has received a good deal of publicity. The revelations, including claims of at least 10,600 resultant deaths, are forcing a reorganisation of this work [6].

 In 2009 Mark Britnell, a former high NHS civil servant, became ‘Head of Healthcare, Europe and UK’ for KPMG; he is now an advisor to the British government. At an international health conference organised by industry in 2010, he remarked that ‘[T]he NHS will be shown no mercy’ in the coming privatizations, and that it would be ‘a state insurance provider, not a state deliverer’ [7]. In effect, it will take your money and distribute it to many businesses, from groups of GPs upwards. The need for profits in this model will necessarily reduce the quality and quantity of care, since when profits are subtracted from the total insurance input, less cash is available for reinvestment. This is happening in Sweden and the Netherlands now, with variations due to differences in their political systems.

Britnell might well be influencing the privatization of the NHS. Since KPMG’s Dutch branch was part of Atos Origin in 2006, its financial destruction of ZVO helped privatize healthcare in the Netherlands. Atos is not just an IT company: it is a danger to EU public health [8].

                                             

1.     https://vpwnet.wordpress.com/2006/02/02/einde_van_de_zvo_regeling/

2.      I describe this affair in Red Pepper, June/July 2009.

3.      https://atos.net/en-us/home/we-are/news/press-release/2002/pr-2002_06_05_01.html

4.      https://atos.net/en-us/home/we-are/company-profile/company-history.html

5.      https://www.atoshealthcare.com/claimants/in_partnership_with_the_dwp

6.      https://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/new-call-to-put-dwpatos-on-trial-for-manslaughter/. Caution is advised here. Although the government released the figure of 10,600 deaths in nine months of 2011, we do not know how many of these are directly attributable to the assessment regime, e.g. from stress, cardiovascular issues, and undiagnosed or untreated illnesses. (Atos does not investigate these. It looks only at basic behavioural and mental capacities, not medical causes of incapacity.)

7.      https://www.spinwatch.org/index.php/issues/lobbying/item/5343-%E2%80%9Cthe-nhs-will-be-shown-no-mercy-says-cameron-health-adviser, https://www.powerbase.info/images/f/fe/Apax_Healthcare_conference_2010.pdf.

8.      I am indebted to Andy Cropper for ideas, information and support during the past year or so. He has done us a service by compiling this thread of data about the NHS:

      https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150607105601288.

     George Berger, Uppsala Sweden, 10 September 2013