German private hospital company Helios has met with the Department of Health to discuss its potential takeover of up to 20 NHS hospitals.
The meetings, focused on “potential opportunities in London”, could lead to NHS acute services with a budget of up to £8bn being taken under private control.
Helios has a track record of taking over hospitals and improving their financial performance through cuts in staffing levels.
The German company’s bid to take over NHS hospitals has been revealed in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
The meetings took place in December 2010, before the first reading of the Health and Social Care Bill.
Management consultant McKinsey, which organised the meetings, contributed a paper advising the DH to sell off NHS hospitals “one at a time” in order not to disrupt the prevailing “mindset”.
To take over NHS hospitals, McKinsey said, “international hospital provider groups” will require a minimum offer of £500 million combined with “a free hand on staff management”.
Shadow Health Secretary John Healey commented: “This looks like a secret plan for privatising hospitals and reveals the Tories’ long-term plans for the NHS.”
Based in Berlin, Helios owns 64 hospitals.