A Chinese investment group, Creat, has just bought the privatised NHS plasma supplier from Bain Capital – only three years after the American private equity firm bought the NHS’s Plasma Resources UK from the Department of Health in 2013.
This privatisation evaded Parliamentary scrutiny, as it was announced just as MPs were about to take six weeks holiday.It involved the sale of 80% of Plasma Resources UK’s equity to the US private equity firm Bain Capital for £90m, plus a Bain Capital Investment of an extra £50m in the firm to create a “UK Life Sciences Champion.”
At the time, the then – Unite union head of health, now York MP Rachael Maskell said
“This news is the thin end of the privatisation wedge. Everything we have warned about for the last two years is coming true – that this government wishes to sell-off large swathes of the NHS to profiteering private companies.”
Now Bain Capital has sold the plasma supply company – renamed Bio Products Laboratory (BPL) – for £820m to the Chinese Creat Group Corporation, a leading Chinese investment group with interests in healthcare and pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, energy, finance, natural resources, and real estate.
Creat will invest £100 million in BPL to expand the production capacity of lifesaving therapies, develop new products and access new markets. BPL’s existing management team is staying with the company, which will remain headquartered in the UK at Elstree. Creat will transform BPL into a global company, serving more customers and patients in a greater number of markets around the world.
Former leader of the NHA Party Dr Clive Peedell said,
“Every sale of this kind increases the dangers the public are exposed to by privatisation. Health care is very big business globally. But the NHS should not simply be a market competitor, looking for ways to maximise profit. It should be first and foremost a system which ensures that we all look after each other at our time of greatest need.
It is extremely worrying to see the NHS’ blood plasma supplies being written about only in the context of accessing more markets around the world, with no mention of the NHS, only to the Department of Health being a 20% shareholder.”
The Bio Products Laboratory website says that they source all their plasma from plasma collection centres in the US, primarily from Life Resources Incorporated, which is wholly owned by the UK Department of Health. This is because of the theoretical risk of contamination from vCJD if British plasma were used. It says they only use a limited number of donor centres, that are all licensed by the FDA and audited by UK or other EU authorities.
Blood donations by people living in the UK are handled by the publicly owned and run NHS Blood and Transplant. No private companies are involved. If you already give blood or are thinking of doing so, please do not be put off by the privatisation of NHS plasma supplies, because your blood will not go to this or any other private company.
Restore the NHS plasma supply service to full public ownership
The NHS Reinstatement Bill is due for its second reading on November 4th 2016. Among other things, it restores the Secretary of State’s duty to provide or secure the provision of a comprehensive health service, and specifies that this comprehensive health service is to be provided directly by public authorities at non-market conditions.
However the bit of the Bill that covers the provision of blood and other tissues says that this may be done “on such terms as to charges thought fit”. (Schedule 3, (1) (f) )
This mention of charges looks as if the Bill permits the privatisation of blood supplies – potentially including charges to patients and commercial sales and purchases of NHS blood.
It would be good if the Bill took out the bit about charges for supplies of human blood, in order to close the door on privatisation of blood supplies, and if it also included a section to bring NHS plasma supplies back into public ownership, as part of NHS Blood and Transplant.
NHS Blood and Transplant was set up in 2005 as a Special Health Authority. It works together with the Dept of Health and the Dept of Healths’s other arms-length bodies.
The NHS Reinstatement Bill includes information about how all the property, rights and liabilities of the Clinical Commissioning Groups, NHS Trusts and NHS Foundation Trusts revert to the Secretary of State once these organisations are abolished. It would be good if it also included the restoration of the Bio Products Laboratory to the Department of Health.