VIRGIN Healthcare, which has won more than £2 billion of healthcare contracts in England since it entered the healthcare market in 2010, has been taken over by private equity company Twenty20 Capital.
Sir Richard Branson, when the Virgin Group became involved in the NHS in 2010, publicly committed that “Virgin Group would never make a profit over and above its investment in Virgin Care”. It is not clear whether Twenty20 Capital has made such a commitment.
In Scotland, of course, the Government is committed to a publicly-owned NHS, and it is protected from such deals, but this takeover does have serious implications for the Scottish NHS.
The Barnett Formula, the mechanism which the UK Government uses to decide how to re-distribute the tax revenue it receives from Scotland, calculates the amount for the Scottish NHS based on the amount spent on the NHS in England. So the less Westminster spends directly on the English NHS, because more of it is privatised, the less that the Scottish Government receives through the Barnett Formula to run the Scottish NHS.
The BMA reported recently that, since the passing of the Health and Social Care Act in 2012, the NHS in England has been forced down a route of increased marketisation and privatisation – and the Government has accelerated its aggressive outsourcing to private firms during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just last week, Chancellor Rishi Sunak was in California meeting UK medical companies, and it is inevitable, with this Government, that there will be further privatisation of the English NHS, and thus the revenue for Scotland’s NHS will be gradually whittled away.
The NHS has always been held in the highest regard in Scotland, and the Scottish Government does its best to protect it, but, with these under the counter cuts in funding, for how much longer?
Les Mackay, Dundee.
YOU report a Japanese billionaire, Yusaku Maezawa, spending 12 days in space at a cost of £60.8 million (International: In Brief, The Herald, December 22). One imagines, being an astute businessman, the cost of his space trip was probably paid for by the interest his accrued wealth gained during those few days: who knows, it’s probably tax-deductible. UN statistics suggest that globally 300,000 people, half of them children, will have starved to death during that same 12-day period.
This may be an extreme example but we hear of politicians flouting the Covid rules to have a jolly good time and having highly remunerative second jobs while 35% of Scots are having to choose whether to feed their kids or turn the heating on.
Merry Christmas, aye right.
David J Crawford, Glasgow.
IS NOT PROVEN SURVEY SKEWED?
IN the consultation document on the Not Proven (NP) verdict, there is one question which worries me, in that it suggests that the consultation is not genuine. There are seven questions on NP to be answered. Questions 5 and 6 start “Do you believe…” and the answers can be “yes” or “no” or “unsure.”
Question 7 is, “Do you believe that the not proven verdict can cause particular trauma to the victims of crime and their families?” There is no answer “unsure”.
Question 7 involves speculation. I would not know the answer, but if I were being honest, I could not answer “No” because I do not know. If I were being honest, I could not answer “yes” either, because I do not know, but if I think that this may be so, the better answer would be “yes”. If most consultees answer “yes,” as they possibly will, the Scottish Government will claim that the argument in favour of abolishing the verdict has been made.
In the past, both Nicola Sturgeon and Keith Brown have said they favour abolition of the verdict, but recently Mr Brown said the Scottish Government has an open mind. Question 7 suggests otherwise.
Douglas J Cusine, Stonehaven.
RAIL MUST NOT FOLLOW FERRIES
THE influx of “outsiders” to all branches of industry and commerce has been gathering pace for years, not least that of the railways (“New ScotRail chief has no experience in rail industry”, The Herald, December 21, and Letters, December 22) . For good or for bad is anyone’s guess. In the 1960s we had a certain gentleman from ICI brought in by the then government to sort out the future of British Railways. I can add another chap from Batchelor’s Foods also came on scene to lend his supposed expertise.
What is more to the point is that the nascent Scotland’s Railways which will come about next April must not be governed at any level in the manner of the present-day fiasco that is Calmac ferry services.
John Macnab, Falkirk.
INQUIRING ABOUT AN INQUIRY
SHOULD there be a public inquiry into the public inquiry about the Edinburgh trams (“‘No end in sight’ blast as Edinburgh trams inquiry is given another £500,000”, The Herald, December 16)?
Alexander Johnston, Inchinnan.
A CAROL FOR TODAY
RE Ronald H Oliver’s letter (December 22) on misheard carols: leaving “While shepherds washed their socks by night”, and “O star of wonder / star of light / fill my pants with dynamite” for another time, is it time to update the well-loved “Hark! the Herald Angels sing / Beechams Pills are just the thing / Two for an adult, one for a child” to “Hark! The Herald Angels sing – Covid jags are just the thing / three for an adult” etc?
R Russell Smith, Largs.