Our guest writer is Tamasin Cave, of Spinwatch
2020Health, the centre right think tank with close links to health secretary Andrew Lansley – and which is out in force at this week’s Conservative party conference – is chaired by the CEO of a huge global network of health insurers. 2020Health chairman, Tom Sackville – a former Conservative minister – is CEO of the International Federation of Health Plans, which represents 100 private health insurance companies in 31 countries.
2020Health, which calls itself an “independent, grassroots think tank”, says it seeks to “give back a voice and influence to those with experience in health and social care”, and aims to “uniquely focus on bottom-up policy development by front line professionals”.
Its advisory council, however, is heavily weighted towards large, for profit companies. It includes a former director of pharmaceutical giant Astrazenca, the managing director of bankers N M Rothschild, the past president of the National Pharmaceutical Association, medical director of the Nuffield private hospital group, and CEO of Independent Healthcare Advisory Services, which represents the private healthcare sector.
In a report published in January, 2020Health advocated ending free treatment for minor or “lifestyle” illnesses. It includes in this varicose veins, fertility treatment, cosmetic surgery and moderate increases in blood pressure or cholesterol. Such changes would leave people needing treatment in the hands of private healthcare providers.
Andrew Lansley has described the think tank as “providing valuable impact on future policy”. The health secretary chose 2020health’s annual lecture in January to launch the Conservative Party’s green paper on public health, while Julia Manning, chief executive of 2020Health and a former Conservative party candidate, in January this year hosted a ‘Cameron Direct’ town hall meeting for the Tory leader.
2020Health also has a strong presence at this week’s Conservative party conference in Birmingham, hosting five fringe events, including sessions on ‘Why the NHS needs to be transformed by technology’, ‘Pricing medicines: Can we deliver value to patients AND industry?’ and ‘Pre-hospital Ccre: Why the NHS is not fit for purpose’.
A number of 2020Health’s other directors also have private healthcare interests. John O’Dowd is a consultant surgeon and chairman of the RealHealth Institute, a private healthcare company specialising in pain problems. RealHealth also counts Tom Sackville as a director (see Companies House records). 2020Health director Dr Paul Charlson is a GP and founder of a private centre which specialises in cosmetic anti aging treatments.
Dr Charlson is also involved with a number of other lobby groups hoping to influence the Conservatives at their party conference. He is chair of the Conservative Medical Society – Julia Manning is its vice chair. CMS, which has received funding from drug company Novartis, is holding a fringe debate on ‘Healthcare: Where now? Can GPs really commission?’
Charlson is also on the steering committee of pressure group Doctors for Reform, which is supported by the free market think tank, Reform.
Reform is also running a number of health-related events at the Tory conference, including ‘NHS: The new health service’, an invite only event sponsored by Baxter UK, an arm of the American private healthcare company; and ‘Healthy competition’, a panel discussion between the Minister for Public Health, Anne Milton, and the CEO of private healthcare company General Healthcare Group.
Andrew Lansley is speaking at a number of fringe events this week, hosted by, among others, private hospital company Circle and pharmaceutical giant Novartis. Trade union, Unison, this week said that under the government’s plans the NHS “would become a shadow of its former self” and called on Mr Lansley to put “people before profit”.