This is an everyday story of the sordid revolving door between US Health insurance company United Health and the NHS.
In the UK, United Health’s subsidiary Optum sells the NHS what it needs in order to morph into a version of United Health – the previous employer of NHS England’s boss Simon Stevens.
With NHS England’s blessing, Optum is all over the NHS, installing their technology & redesigning the NHS through its use.
Optum sells the NHS:
- Commissioning support services
- Scriptswitch decision support for GP prescribing (which United Health UK acquired in 2009) is in at least between a third and a half of GP surgeries.
- Referral management services
- GP Empower (accelerating large scale GP practices)
- Integrated Care Systems support: “Optum® brings practical hands-on experience having delivered integrated care for over 20 years in the US. Our tried and tested approach has helped systems deliver proven results.” This updates an earlier brochure on accountable care systems/organisations which is no longer available. However NHS For Sale quotes Optum’s now defunct webpage: “We currently operate 26 accountable care organisations in the U.S., and are supporting sustainability and transformation partnerships in the U.K. to manage population health risk and deliver care as an integrated group of providers.”
The overall aim is to control, sideline and override doctors’ treatment decisions – as we can see through NHS England’s consultation on stopping funding numerous elective care treatments and its mandatory Integrated Urgent Care Services specification. This removes patients’ direct access to clinicians and redirects them through NHS 111 to a clinical advisory service that works off the algorithms in a clinical decision support tool.
And now it has its finger firmly in the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence pie – the organisation responsible for providing evidence-based guidance and advice to the NHS.
The revolving door that connnects United Health, Optum and the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence
- former United Health Director Andrew Witty
- Lord Darzi (head of the Imperial College department which is partnered with OptumLabs, a United Health business); and
- a new public-private partnership in the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence called the “Accelerated Access Collaborative“, that’s about pushing new technology and drugs through the NHS.
It puts Optum centre stage in the Accelerated Access Collaborative. Now there’s a surprise. Or not. If you have been following United Health’s relatively rapid takeover of the NHS.
As a result of these shenanigans, we would treat any new recommendation from NICE with a pinch of salt. Particularly since NHS England is invoking NICE guidance in support of its cuts to 17 elective surgery procedures – with more to follow.
And how convenient that Optum runs referral management services for a number of Clinical Commissioning Groups, which decide which patients referred for secondary NHS treatments by GPs, should have their referrals funded.
Who is Andrew Witty
Here is a short Witty timeline:
- March 2017 – Andrew Witty leaves CEO position at Glaxo Smith Kline
- August 2017 – Witty joins UnitedHealth’s Board of Directors
- November 2017 – Following the Accelerated Access Review, the Department of Health appoints Witty as head of the Accelerated Access Collaborative. The job is to fast track drugs & technology into the NHS, to start April 2018
- March 2018 – United Health announces Witty to be new Optum CEO, to start July 2018
Andrew Witty must have been rumbled somewhere along the line as he graciously resigned from the Government position in March 2018, due to the enormous conflict of interest of him starting as Optum CEO in July 2018. Ignored of course was the huge conflict of interest in hiring Witty in the first place while he was a Director of UnitedHealth.
And who replaced him? Lord Darzi.
Who is Lord Darzi
I am tired of writing about Lord Darzi. He stalks the NHS like a zombie. He was behind the New Labour government’s massive, failed and costly privatisation of elective NHS services in the horrible Independent Sector Treatment Centres – one of which totally messed up my son’s broken wrist – twice, before an NHS hospital fixed it for him.
This is what his nasty scheme has come to now. Regardless, he has returned to push his idea a second time as Accountable Care – with the apparent support of the Labour Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth. This time from his perch in the Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) at Imperial College, London.
Which, surprise surprise, is an OptumLabs partner.
What is OptumLabs
OptumLabs (launched in 2013) is all about United Health number crunching and framing raw patient data for academics to play with to derive the “best treatments” for patients.
OptumLabs is desperate to pass itself off as pioneering and respectable in the academic research field. But reality of the profit motive and UnitedHealth’s track record of
“deception, manipulation of data and outright fraud”
(see the Ingenix case ) means their number crunching will most likely point to treatments that United Health finds most profitable, not what’s best for patients. And OptumLabs is useful cover to collect patient data.
We pointed out some time ago Optum’s invidious position as a provider of commissioning support services, able to direct Clinical Commissioning Groups to commission Optum products. Now they have their fingers in the NICE pie too.