The plight of wheelchair users came before Kent County Council Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) meeting on Friday 20th July. As the County Councillor for Ramsgate I was absolutely incensed by the abject failure of the private company, Millbrook Healthcare to deliver a much needed wheelchair provision contact. I am equally angry at the ‘double speak’ of the Tory County Councillors.
Millbrook Healthcare were selected by Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to deliver the contract to provide wheelchairs across Kent. This shouldn’t be a difficult contract to fulfil but hundreds of Kent residents have been waiting 12 months to be fitted for a wheelchair. Over 1,000 adults and children have endured waiting times of over 18 weeks for assessments, repairs or deliveries. It’s absolutely outrageous that so many people with disabilities have waited so long, with no visible prospect of this situation being sorted out.
According to published accounts that I have seen, Millbrook Healthcare has a very healthy profit margin and are by no means struggling. Yet the HOSC was told that more funding is required to maintain the desired levels of service.
The Millbrook Healthcare wheelchair scandal is a typical ‘profits before people’ scenario. This is the manifestation of Conservative ideology that the private sector does a better job than the public sector. Like the collapse of Carillion, this is another prime example of the private sector pocketing cash whilst delivering the bare minimum.
As a trade union official, it’s no surprise to me that Millbrook Healthcare are also ‘called out’ by their service users as being poor employers – there have been reports of a high employee churn rate which impacts on those end customers.
I fully support Professor Mike Oliver, who said at HOSC that this is the worst it has ever been in his 56 years of being a wheelchair user. Professor Oliver presented a report and is now calling for this contract to be bought in-house. You simply cannot put profit before people. The Conservatives on Kent County Council are crying crocodile tears. It is their own Government’s policies that they are implementing and then criticising.
I have also asked that in future, any contract issued by Kent County Council should include scrutiny of the employer practises as part of due diligence. Wherever possible we should bring these contracts in house. We should only issue contracts to decent reputable employers. There should be no exceptions.
You can see me in the recording below responding to this matter as part of my duties on the HOSC.
Viewers on mobile phones may need to fast forward to 2hrs 17mins if the recording doesn’t start at the correct point.