“‘Eye-watering’ deal for American NHS boss”

That was the headline in the Financial Times about the pay deal Chan Wheeler, the new Commercial Director for the NHS, is receiving.

Mr Wheeler, it seems, is getting a basic salary of £185,000 plus perks like a very good pension, annual bonuses, and regular business class flights back to the US. Perhaps the most outrageous part of the deal is the £8,400 a month housing allowance.

So what are we paying for? A man whose job it is to privatise the NHS. He is meant to be an expert in “commissioning”.

He used to work for the UnitedHealth Group in the US. They are one of the largest health insurers in the US. So we know his experience of commissioning is about making a profit, looking for low cost providers, not about clinical excellance.

It’s very convenient. UnitedHealth set up a subsidiary in Europe in 2004 to win privatised services from the NHS. Keep Our NHS Public have produced a good factsheet on them. I’m sure Mr. Wheeler’s contacts with his old employers will not prove disadvantageous to them.

Last week UnitedHealth took control of three GP surgeries in Camden, in Central London. According to an article in the Evening Standard a GP who was bidding for one of the surgeries was offering to spend £100 per patient on service provision – UnitedHealth was promising just £75. I’m sure Mr. Wheeler would have approved.

It’s part of Lord Darzi’s plan for primary care. Mr. Wheeler’s job is to implement Gordon Brown’s promise to increase privatisation in community health services.

So Mr. Wheeler gets £100,000 a year in housing allowance, and we are told to accept a lower than inflation pay deal.

The Government wants us to accept a 3 year pay deal going forward. If it was like Mr Wheeler’s, I’m sure no one would object.

That’s not on offer. Brown, Darling and Johnson want to tie us to less than inflation increases going forward. With current economic conditions who can tell what inflation will look like in three years. Even the Bank of England are expecting it to rise.

The Government are pumping so much money into privatisation initiatives that they claim there is nothing left for us. We have an alternative.

Reps at our Regional Health Sector Conferences taking place in the next few weeks have the opportunity to say what they want. We shouldn’t just leave it to our full-time officers to make the running. If you haven’t got the details of your Regional Conference, ring your Regional Office. The bigger and more representative the Conferences are, the stronger we will be going forward.

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