Sheffield NHS consultants sell their private “insourcing” company Pioneer Healthcare to Totally Healthcare for £13m

Acquisitive private healthcare company Totally plc has just bought a moonlighting NHS consultants’ private company that operates out of a private hospital in Sheffield owned by US company Aspen Healthcare. (Until recently Aspen Healthcare also owned 50% of Nova Healthcare, that owns and runs the private cancer ward in the Leeds NHS St James Hospital Cancer Centre.)

With the government pumping NHS funding into private health care companies as their preferred way of cutting the huge elective care waiting lists in England, Totally Healthcare – Totally’s “insourcing” division – has just bought Sheffield-based Pioneer Health Care – “an established independent provider of specialist NHS secondary care services” – for  £13.0 million. 

Insourcing is the practice where NHS hospitals pay private companies to use their operating theatres and other facilities during downtime, to provide elective care for NHS patients.

Since 2018 insourcing has been promoted by NHS Shared Business Services – which calls itself “the market leader in corporate services for the NHS” – through its Insourcing Framework. This Framework is a list of companies including Totally Healthcare and Pioneer Health Care, that NHS hospitals can pay to carry out elective operations and other treatments for NHS patients, using their premises and equipment.

Insourcing is predicted to be one of the fastest growing areas of NHS privatisation


NHS Shared Business Services apparently incentivises Integrated Care Systems to encourage NHS hospitals to use insourcing companies via the Framework, because it’s cheaper. It costs 20% less than the NHS England tariff CCGs have to pay to NHS hospitals for provision of the same services.

Pioneer Healthcare’s website says they have been on the insourcing framework of the NHS Shared Business Services (NHSBS) since 2018 and have been providing insourcing services across a range of specialities in the Yorkshire and Humber to multiple NHS Trust hospitals.

Totally Ltd have announced,  

“The Acquisition is the Company’s second in three months [the first was EnergyFitPro] and supports the Board’s buy and build strategy, utilising the substantial cash balances held by the Company to strengthen its service proposition and bring further earnings-enhancing opportunities to the Group.”

According to Totally Plc’s announcement,

“Pioneer Healthcare delivers insourcing and outsourcing services across a wide range of surgical and medical specialities to NHS patients and holds contracts with NHS Foundation Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups (“CCGs”), predominantly across the North of England. 

“Pioneer also holds the difficult-to-acquire Any Qualified Provider (“AQP”) status, which enables it to offer services direct to NHS patients across the whole of England, free at the point of delivery, where there is sufficient demand. 

“The business is led by three experienced, senior NHS consultants, Mr Hesham Zaki, Professor Prasad Godbole and Mr John McMullan, who are well recognised in their chosen fields, and will continue to hold senior leadership roles within the business following the Acquisition.

“Pioneer Healthcare and Totally Healthcare, which forms Totally’s Insourcing division, will be brought together to create a single, established, provider of insourcing and outsourcing services under the Pioneer brand.”

Totally plc’s main shareholders, as of 2021, are listed here.

Moonlighting from Sheffield NHS hospitals and pocketing £13m

The vendors of Pioneer Healthcare are:

Totally Ltd has paid cash for 80% of the purchase and issued “initial consideration shares” to the vendors for the remaining 20%. This amounts to 4,246,154 new ordinary shares in Totally at a price of 32.5 pence per share; Totally Ltd says the vendors have agreed that they will not dispose of their “Initial Consideration Shares” for a period of 12 months from Admission and for the period of 12 months thereafter they will only dispose of their Initial Consideration Shares in an orderly manner via the Company’s brokers.

On 22 Feb 2022 Hesham Said Zaki and Patrick John De Ville McMullan ceased to be persons with significant control of Pioneer Health Care Ltd, although Henderson Whitehall Limited (the company they jointly own) remains a person with significant control. . 

Companies House shows all three Consultants remain as Directors of Pioneer Health Care Ltd , with the private Claremont Hospital, Sheffield as their registered address.

The US Aspen Healthcare connection

Claremont Hospital’s parent company is the USA Aspen Healthcare ,  which was acquired by Texas-based Tenet Healthcare Corporation in 2015. 

Tenet Healthcare Corporation has defrauded Medicare, the USA’s publicly funded healthcare system for people who can’t afford private health insurance. Here is the Investor Centre webpage for Tenet Healthcare Corporation. 

Until recently, Aspen Healthcare also owned 50% of Nova Healthcare UK, which runs the private cancer ward upstairs in the Bexley Wing of the Leeds Cancer Centre in St. James’s Hospital.

Nova Healthcare advertises itself as working in partnership with Leeds Cancer Centre to provide treatment and the highest standards of personalised care to private patients. Meanwhile on at least one occasion a patient in the NHS bit of Leeds Cancer Centre has been parked in a bed in a freezing cold corridor, for want of space in a ward.

More info on Nova Healthcare and Tenet Healthcare Corporation here.

Pioneer Healthcare Group has international companies too.

As part of the Pioneer Healthcare group,

Pioneer Healthcare International… has a number of unique strategic partnerships boasting prestigious links with the UK including specialist NHS skills, higher education, and training. These include Sheffield university, Hallam University, other top-class universities for medical and nursing accredited degree level education.”

Their international business includes “ a growing number of new and existing hospital projects across the Middle East, South East Asia, and North Africa”, including a Children’s Hospital in northern Iraq.

Pioneer Healthcare Global Pioneer Healthcare Global delivers pharmaceuticals and medical products around the world.

Why can’t NHS hospitals employ their own consultants to do extra elective care?

A useful article on insourcing by the NHS Support Federation says this is because NHS pension rules mean if consultants work extra hours as NHS employees, they basically end up paying to work. If they are employed by a private company to work on top of their NHS hours, this isn’t the case. The government has so far refused to tackle the NHS consultants’ pension problem.

Meanwhile NHS England has warned NHS hospital trusts against staffing agencies that are not on the insourcing framework, and are just offering insourcing “solutions” based on temporary teams that they are paying “escalated rates” above the NHS England price cap. NHS England has told NHS hospital trusts that,

“This reduces the supply of agency workers available to fill shifts elsewhere in the trust and wider health system, and has a ripple effect on general agency rates…forc[ing] other departments and trusts to increase their rates to attract their workers back.”


  1. Thanks Jenny; fascinating account of ‘insourcing’ and Sheffield shenanigans. Leeds Teaching Hospitals currently using Medinet to help tackle surgical waiting lists and people are asking how much is this arrangement costing the NHS.


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