Rishi Sunak was rebuffed by US private health executives over a UK investment bid during his controversial trip to California in December, I can reveal.
During a roundtable with several companies specializing in aspects of social care, Sunak encouraged companies to work in the UK.
They offer a range of services, including selling insurance to retirees and connecting patients with caregivers.
According to the partially redacted Treasury meeting minutes, seen by Ione of the aims of the meeting was “to highlight opportunities for life science organizations in the UK, outlining UK USPs”.
However, Mr Sunak was told by companies that at the time they had little interest in working in the UK.
Participants told the Chancellor that they were focused on growth in the US and would not currently be considering expansion into the UK.
Participants said they considered UK healthcare to lack innovation, although they believed it had improved in recent years.
The minutes, labeled “official sensitive,” read, “American healthcare companies want to focus on their home market before considering expansion because i) it’s so large: population and spending per capita are much higher than in the UK, for example; ii) it is complicated and idiosyncratic; it is not a portable approach.
“UK healthcare has historically not been particularly innovative, but some participants reported positive engagements in which they have recently worked with the NHS.”
Mr. Sunak hosted the breakfast with health companies on December 16. It was put in place by the Treasury, as the UK faced a growing number of coronavirus cases due to the Omicron variant.
A source from the Ministry of Health said I that Health Secretary Sajid Javid was adamantly opposed to making the NHS more like the US system.
In a recent speech, Mr Javid said: ‘When I look across the pond to the United States – the land of the free – health care costs almost twice as much. Well, that’s not freedom for the millions of people who can’t afford it.
Five US healthcare start-ups attended the meeting, most working in the senior care sector.
Social care companies Honor and Unite Us, both of which connect people in need of care with caregivers, attended the meeting with Sunak, as did healthcare data company Komodo Health.
Health insurance company Devoted Health, which specializes in selling health insurance to retirees, was also present.
Grail, a cancer detection company, also met with Sunak as part of the talks. Grail is owned by genetics company Illumina, which is advised by former Prime Minister David Cameron.
Companies did not respond Irequest for comment.
The trip was criticized at the time by UK hospitality businesses as Covid-19 cases rose in the UK, with UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls arguing for more support for the hospitality industry.
Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary Wes Streeting said at the time the Chancellor needed to urgently return to the UK as business floundered.
He said Times Radio“We understand that the Chancellor is currently out of the country in California. So maybe he may want to catch a flight home and get the situation under control because businesses need certainty and confidence now.
Mr Sunak had hoped to attract investment to the UK on his trip, with meetings with Microsoft, Meta and dozens of other Silicon Valley companies also scheduled.
An incentive to invest – not a Machiavellian NHS sellout
Rishi Sunak’s openness to American healthcare companies is likely to ring alarm bells for many who have vehemently opposed the privatization of American-style healthcare.
Images of American-style hospital bills have gone viral on social media in recent years as life-saving treatments plunge patients into a future of debt.
Although it is tempting to catastrophize – and political opponents will no doubt seize on the perceived threat to public health care in the UK – the meeting must be seen in the wider context of investment in health and science.
Mr Sunak’s ‘lines forward’ (the talking points you often hear politicians repeat) were based on investing in the UK life sciences sector, which has been a key principle in championing success Britain’s post-Brexit around vaccines, with Cambridge-based AstraZeneca proving success in emerging from the pandemic.
It is likely that the meeting was more of an encouragement to try the investment, rather than a Machiavellian sellout of the NHS behind closed doors.
Four out of five meeting participants work in or around the welfare market, which is already dominated by the private sector.
Four Seasons, one of the UK’s largest operators, is owned by Terra Firma, a private equity firm founded by former EMI chairman Guy Hands.
It’s no secret that the government has been trying to reform the welfare market and has been trying for years – Theresa May’s attempt to fix the problem in 2017 with the ‘dementia tax’ was seen as a the first stage of his downfall as prime minister. .
Chris Thomas, senior fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research, said I“The evidence is clear – relying on big business and private equity to deliver social care services has failed.
“Publicly funded care is better for those who use it, more cost-effective overall, and means better wages and conditions for carers.
“Health and care are in crisis. Millions of people languish on waiting lists – or go without the social care they need. Having failed in a bid for foreign private investment, it’s time for the Chancellor to come up with government funding and a plan to revitalize these valuable public services.
A government spokesperson said: “We have a strong track record of promoting inward investment into the UK to boost our economy and level the country.
“The Chancellor met with industry leaders from technology, investment and healthcare to discuss the global economy and recovery, as well as investment in the UK.”
The companies met by Rishi Sunak
Specializing in in-home care for the elderly, Honor helps connect caregivers with people in need of elderly care. The company has become the largest in the home care industry in the United States. Honor was founded by former Google employee Seth Sternberg and was valued at $1.25 billion in 2020.
Unite Us is a software company specializing in connecting people to social services. The company’s welfare section has grown in recent years, after securing contracts with the US military. The company was valued at $1.6 billion in 2021.
The company provides health insurance for U.S. retirees, offering virtual and home care through partners. Based in Waltham, Massachusetts, the company is one of a growing number of American online healthcare companies. Devoted Health was valued at $12.1 billion in 2021.
A large healthcare data company that analyzes patient data and is based in San Francisco. The company uses machine learning to identify trends in healthcare models. It was valued at $3.3 billion in 2021.
An early cancer detection company that has designed a liquid biopsy test to detect early cancers. The company signed a commercial agreement with the NHS in November 2020 to trial the test. NHS England has announced a pilot of the test, which will be carried out on 140,000 people aged 50 to 79. David Cameron advises Illumina, the parent company of Grail. Illumina agreed to buy Grail for $7 billion in 2020.