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Cameron, Greensill and the NHS

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DerekC

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Interesting story in the Guardian this morning which suggests that the Greensill saga has a long way to run:

https://www.theguardian.com/busines...tm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&CMP=GTUK_email

The Conservative peer who chairs NHS England is facing demands to explain why he helped arrange for Greensill Capital to lobby senior health service bosses, with Labour describing his role as “shocking”.

David Prior is facing questions over a meeting he organised between the now collapsed finance firm’s founder Lex Greensill and the overall boss of the NHS and its chief financial officer.

Lord Prior – a former Tory MP, health minister and Tory party deputy chair – also helped to facilitate a meeting at which Lex Greensill was able to lobby Lady Harding, the Tory peer who chairs NHS Improvement, the health service’s financial regulator.

That encounter led to Greensill being able to meet the chief executives of a number of NHS hospital trusts whose support he was seeking for a scheme to let the NHS’s 1.4m staff in England be paid daily by Greensill, via an app called Earnd, rather than monthly in what Labour said was a latter-day “junk bonds” exercise.

Harding is best known as the boss of the government’s heavily-criticised £37bn test and trace programme.

Calls for clarity about Prior’s involvement with Greensill come amid continuing controversy about the roles played by David Cameron, the former prime minister, who was a lobbyist for and senior figure at the firm, and Matt Hancock, the health secretary, who backed the payments system it wanted to introduce across the health service.

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Cameron has been under fire for weeks for lobbying an array of ministers and civil servants, both for Greensill to be able to access emergency government funding during the Covid pandemic and for the NHS to adopt the scheme involving health service pay.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “Shockingly, meetings were convened by NHS England chair and former Cameron health minister Lord Prior with senior NHS officials, and fellow Tory peer and NHS leader Dido Harding facilitated further meetings with Trust chief executives.

“Trusts may have spent valuable time considering the adoption of this untested scheme and did so because the secretary of the state and the most senior NHS figures succumbed to Cameron and Greensill’s lobbying.”

Munira Wilson, the Liberal Democrats’ spokesperson on health, said: “Conservative party cronyism must not be allowed to interfere with the daily running of the NHS. I expect all details of Lord Prior’s engagement with Lex Greensill to be made public, allowing proper scrutiny to take place.”

The Sunday Times disclosed how Prior arranged for Lex Greensill and his close colleague Bill Crothers, an ex-head of government procurement under Cameron, to meet Julian Kelly, NHS England’s chief financial officer, in July 2019 at a meeting which Sir Simon Stevens – the service’s chief executive – attended for 15 minutes at the peer’s request.

Ashworth added: “We now need to know how many NHS leaders and officials did Cameron and Greensill lobby? How many NHS trusts in total were approached about a scheme that was really a form of usury?”

NHS England declined to say who had asked Prior to arrange access for Greensill. It is thought that he was approached by senior figures at the firm whom he knew from his days working in the City.

Hancock is already under scrutiny for having a drink with Cameron and Greensill, who was an adviser to Cameron when he was prime minister of the coalition government of 2010-15.

The Sunday Times published an email that Cameron sent to Matthew Gould, the chief executive of NHSX, the health service’s digital innovation agency, seeking his help in ensuring that Greensill’s company, in the event of a deal, could access the personal details of NHS workers held in the service’s Electronic Staff Record. Gould replied that “we will certainly look into the ESR question”.

The Guardian asked the Department of Health and Social Care if Hancock had approached Prior or Harding before their respective engagements with Greensill. But it refused to answer and suggested we submit a freedom of information request to pursue that information.

A DHSC spokesperson said: “The wellbeing of NHS staff is the top priority of the department and health secretary.

“Our approach was and is that local NHS employers are best placed to decide how different pay flexibilities fit with their overall pay and reward offer for their staff.”

Dr John Puntis, the co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public, which campaigns against NHS privatisation, said: “Prior, Harding and Stevens are all concerned with promoting a digital transformation of the NHS on the unevidenced and highly dubious basis that it will save money and improve care.”

A spokesperson for NHS England and NHS Improvement said: “NHS England and NHS Improvement experts scrutinised these proposals but decided not to go along with them. Had these ideas been taken forward by NHSEI, there would have been a transparent and open procurement process.”

NHS England did not respond when asked why Prior arranged for Greensill and Crothers to meet Kelly and what contact if any Prior had with Hancock, Cameron, Greensill or Crothers before fixing the meeting with Kelly. They also did not respond to a request to disclose details of all relevant communications.
 
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DerekC

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I tried to find out how this App "Earnd" works and in particular how the supplier Wagestream makes money out of it, but it's not at all clear. I bumped into two documents which suggest that the lobbying of the NHS was successful, contrary to the statements reported in the Guardian article, Both seem to suggest that the service is being provided free, to which I apply the principle "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is":

https://nhsproviders.org/media/690274/nhsp-connect-report-earnd.pdf

I can't quote the whole document, it's too long - but here is the Foreword by Chris Hopson, CEO NHS Providers:

The healthcare landscape has shifted significantly due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and employee wellbeing has never been more important, as emphasised in the new NHS People Plan. Employers want to do what they can to alleviate stress and improve the wellbeing of their staff and recognise that financial stress can be a significant factor in a person’s overall wellbeing. Linked to this, many employees now want greater flexibility in how they are paid to enable them to manage their earnings smartly, meet unexpected expenses and avoid the need for interest-bearing loans. In strengthening staff wellbeing arrangements and developing their people plans, NHS trust leaders are open to considering a range of initiatives that could benefit the wellbeing of their staff. While these regularly include things like counselling services, travel loans, creche facilities, free parking and discounted gym memberships, there are a growing number of employers considering access to earned wages as an employee benefit. Earnd’s on-demand pay system, which is free for life to NHS trusts and their employees, is one such system. Integrating with time management and payroll systems, Earnd provides employees with information on how much they have earned or accrued daily, and enables them to draw down, save and manage their earnings more flexibly. Through our NHS Providers Connect programme, we work with commercial suppliers who can provide our members with ready-made solutions to address key challenges. We only work with a small number of chosen suppliers whose solutions are proven to work and we are therefore pleased to be working with Earnd and their free for life offer to NHS staff and employers. I hope this publication gives you a good idea of how your organisation could use Earnd’s service to enhance the wellbeing of your workforce.

And here's the second:

https://www.england.nhs.uk/looking-...nerable-during-covid-19-wagestream-and-earnd/

Supporting the financially vulnerable during COVID-19 (Wagestream and Earnd)​

Trusts are rapidly introducing technology that allows staff to draw down a proportion of their pay on a daily basis to support those whose households have become financially vulnerable because of the pandemic.

Wagestream and Earnd are among the providers that have offered their services to the NHS for free since the COVID-19 outbreak, to help ease financial anxiety among the overstretched workforce.

So far, seven trusts are working with Earnd — an app provided by financial tech company Greensill, which allows staff to draw down a portion of their pay immediately after a shift.


The former chief executive of the Northern Care Alliance NHS group, Sir David Dalton, has endorsed the technology, saying it would reduce trusts’ reliance on agency staff, while “bolstering” staff morale during the pandemic.

He told HSJ: “If these organisations and the NHS could get it right, it would be something that would help recruitment and get people away from agency and onto the books of NHS trusts themselves, if they knew they could be paid straight after they have done an extra shift.”

He added: “Many NHS staff will be sick in the coming months and those who are well will be stretched to the maximum.

“All staff will face huge challenges, none more so than low-banded staff. With variable supply of essential household goods, having cash at the right moment will be more important than it’s ever been and for trusts who pursue the pay scheme, it can be a further ingredient to bolster morale.”

Wagestream — a similar service which is already used by at least three NHS trusts — has waived fees for NHS employers and staff during the pandemic. It has also fast tracked the implementation of its software, which can now be up and running in NHS organisations in 24 hours, rather than three weeks. Some trusts using this technology have also lifted a cap on the number of times staff can call down their wages in a month during the pandemic.

Wagestream chief executive and co-founder Peter Briffett said: “We’ve all got to do our bit during this crisis, and we find ourselves able to provide NHS workers and employers with a service that is a uniquely invaluable weapon right now.

“Everybody faces unbearable uncertainty at the moment and this misery will be compounded by unexpected expenses. We’re waiving all fees to ensure these vital workers can get at their pay when they need it.”
 

Typhoon

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I tried to find out how this App "Earnd" works and in particular how the supplier Wagestream makes money out of it, but it's not at all clear.
Loss leader ('look how well it worked with NHS providers'), start to charge once the pandemic is over, offer loans at a later date? I personally wouldn't want to touch it.
 

brad465

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As someone who reads the Financial Times they had been investigating this for a least a few weeks prior to it blowing up in the main press, which should indicate how big this is as well.

I have seen suggestions that, while the inquiry lead is biased for having links to the firm/behaviour in question, Johnson and the Government could use this inquiry to throw Cameron under a bus, in the hope it will distract from all the other sleaze and allow them to claim they're cleaning up their past. Whether that will actually happen is another matter.
 

brad465

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@brad465 - as a reader of the FT, any clues as to how Greensill and Wagestream were going to make money out of Earnd?


The following two articles suggest Cameron hoped to get Earnd managing the NHS payroll, and introducing Earnd to the German Civil Service appeared to be on the cards as well:



(As they have copyright rules on text I can't put quotes into this post)
 

507021

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Shock horror as a multi-millionaire tries to line their own pockets at the expense of the taxpayer. It's nothing new.
 

GusB

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Using an app to pay staff daily suggests to me that they want to bring NHS staff into the gig economy. Perhaps the costs will be covered by not having to pay staff for a full shift, but "per job". If I was a doctor or a nurse I'd be very uneasy about this.
 

DarloRich

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Johnson and the Government could use this inquiry to throw Cameron under a bus, in the hope it will distract from all the other sleaze and allow them to claim they're cleaning up their past. Whether that will actually happen is another matter.

No could about it. That is exactly what will happen! BTW - Johnson and his chums are beyond a bit of good old fashioned Tory sleaze
 

DerekC

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The following two articles suggest Cameron hoped to get Earnd managing the NHS payroll

Yes. From what I see the process by which this happened is clearly unethical (being polite) as it involved Tory politicians paid by the government using their position to further the interest of another Tory politician who wanted to make money out of government contracts. What I am not clear about is whether Earnd is a legitimate commercial product which the NHS could take up (or not) depending on whether they think the cost to the NHS is justified by the value, or whether it also intends to make money out of the employees - for example by charging them interest on advances against their pay. The Wagestream website is remarkably free of any information at all about cost, which always makes me suspicious.
I have seen suggestions that, while the inquiry lead is biased for having links to the firm/behaviour in question, Johnson and the Government could use this inquiry to throw Cameron under a bus, in the hope it will distract from all the other sleaze and allow them to claim they're cleaning up their past. Whether that will actually happen is another matter.

No could about it. That is exactly what will happen! BTW - Johnson and his chums are beyond a bit of good old fashioned Tory sleaze

Yes absolutely, but the longer the list of government employees with dirty hands, the harder it will be for Boris stay squeaky clean. I notice that Baroness Harding, self-declared hero of NHS Test and Trace, is now on the list.
 

Typhoon

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Following the collapse of Greensill, Wagestream has acquired Earnd Australia, I gather that Earnd UK is in administration and
Earnd UK, formerly known as FreeUp, reported a loss of more than £615,000 in the final six months of 2019, according to its latest accounts.
from https://www.theguardian.com/money/2...e-advance-app-earnd-nhs-nurses-administration.
From the same story
Greensill also reportedly dispatched one of its own advisers, the former prime minister David Cameron, to lobby the Australian government to adopt Earnd while he was attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last January.

The Mail on Sunday reported the offer was rejected because it was deemed too similar to payday lending.
Those Aussies are no fools!.
The startup also had a slightly different model to Wagestream’s. Wagestream charges workers a small fee every time they draw down their salaries early, whereas Earnd charges employers a SaaS fee.
From https://sifted.eu/articles/uk-fintech-buys-greensill-entity/ I note, in the second quote from #3
Wagestream — a similar service which is already used by at least three NHS trusts — has waived fees for NHS employers and staff during the pandemic
(my emphasis). Doubtless, they are hoping that staff get used to using it and don't opt out once the pandemic is over. Bupa, JD Sports, Kwikfit, Rentokil, Roadchef, Zizzi have been early adopters.


Yes absolutely, but the longer the list of government employees with dirty hands, the harder it will be for Boris stay squeaky clean.
I wish I thought that were true, there seem to be many who think he has performed miracles because of the vaccine roll out, when, as I understand it, what has happened is that he hasn't meddled in a tried and trusted system whereby British and Irish staff at a British University develop a product which, unfortunately, failures in communication by the commercial producers mean that there are doubts about it in certain countries. The vaccination programme has then been implemented because of the dedication of our largely public NHS.
 

BluePenguin

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I tried to find out how this App "Earnd" works and in particular how the supplier Wagestream makes money out of it, but it's not at all clear. I bumped into two documents which suggest that the lobbying of the NHS was successful, contrary to the statements reported in the Guardian article, Both seem to suggest that the service is being provided free, to which I apply the principle "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is":
The article in the Times explains how a colleague would request their pay and receive their money shortly. It then goes on to say that bonds would be purchased which would then be used to cash in.

Had significantly more than 400 people actually used the service, they may have got away with it slightly better
 

brad465

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Next up in the long list of people who Cameron tried to lobby, Sir Tom Scholar, the most senior UK Treasury official:



(No article text copied under FT ToCs)
 
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