Newcross Healthcare: rinsing the public coffers

The true face of privatisation in our public services, where greed and abuse are rewarded and people come last.

Agency carer Paul McFadden had an accident and couldn’t work. Not only did he lose money for the missed shift, he was fined £50 too. He ended up leaving his job as a result of the stress caused by the firm's sickness policy.

Newcross Healthcare is a massive agency that supplies carers and nurses to do temporary work in residential care homes and hospitals in Britain. It employs 7,000 staff, and in 2017 it racked up £21m in pre-tax profits.

A glimpse of what the company does to generate such dizzying profits from a care system that is in crisis was afforded by the testimony of a former business centre manager there, given to the Guardian newspaper. (Ex-employee describes ‘cut-throat’ culture at firm that fines sick staff by Simon Murphy, 1 January 2019)

His job, it turns out, was to compete with other managers to see who could fill the most temping vacancies – by any means necessary. Regional managers put the screws on local managers, pressurising them into levying £50 fines on any worker who dares to phone in sick without giving a full day’s notice.

Employees who become ill are denied sick pay, driving some to go to work whilst clearly still unwell – to the obvious detriment of both themselves and of those for whom they are intended to care.

Managers repeatedly cold-call care and nursing homes, badgering them into booking shifts for Newcross temps. Under this cut-throat, sales-driven culture, all that matters is hitting the sales target, by hook or by crook.

Managers are rewarded for their compliance every April with an all-expenses-paid jolly in Gibraltar (the particular rock from under which the owners of Newcross have crawled), complete with a five-star hotel and visits to the casino.

Ceremonies are held at which those who have distinguished themselves by their ruthless dedication to sales targets, with no thought for either the welfare of employees or for the quality of care likely to be delivered by such a demoralised workforce, are given special awards.

Newcross is not an exceptional case, but fits an easily recognised and systematic pattern of degradation of every aspect of welfare provision under the privatisation cosh.