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Magda Hassan
11-09-2011, 12:16 AM
NHS HORSE-TRADING

















http://www.private-eye.co.uk/pictures/in_the_back/horse.jpg






TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER: Imperial chief
exec Mark Davies and horse (left). NHS staff
have attended ‘horse leadership’ courses
run by one of Davies’s wife’s companies.









TOUGH times call for tough measures. For Britain’s largest health trust, facing a reported £40m shortfall, that means giving its chief executive the fattest pay rate in the NHS – through his and his wife’s company – and sending staff on a “horse leadership programme” run by… another of his wife’s companies.

Since April, Imperial College Healthcare Trust, formed in 2007 through the amalgamation of St Mary’s and Hammersmith hospitals and now taking in Charing Cross as well as other London hospitals, has been headed by chief executive Mark Davies. Unlike most chief executives, Davies isn’t on the NHS’s books. His fees are paid to a company called Scenario One Ltd, which Imperial says “specialises in the placement of high-level senior managers” and is owned by Mark Davies’s wife, Karen Johnson. Gun for hire
Nice fees they are, too: £2,000 a day for a maximum 200 days a year, or £400,000 for less than a full year’s work, of which £144,000 has been paid in the first five months of this financial year for 72 “invoiceable days”.
This is all justified by the fact that prior to joining Imperial, Davies, who was heavily involved in the 2007 merger, had been one the health service’s more expensive guns for hire on “interim” contracts, most recently as director of the NHS London Provider Development Agency, gearing up the capital’s hospitals for foundation trust status. Imperial agreed to keep him on the same consultancy deal.
Ponying up with health trusts’ money Davies was also a director of a company called Coalescence Consulting Ltd, which he still co-owns with his wife and where he remains listed as a “senior consultant and executive coach”. The firm provides the full suite of management consultancy bullshit to health trusts, of which it numbers 18 as clients, boasting in particular of its work with Imperial itself. Imperial paid Coalescence £15,732 in 2010/11 and has so far paid £39,570 halfway through this financial year, with Davies at the helm.
Uppermost among the techniques deployed on “a varied organisational development programme” for the trust was “equine guided leadership”, which has raised a few eyebrows. “Some doctors were initially sceptical about participating in Coalescence Consulting’s unique Horse Leadership programme,” reads the marketing blurb. You don’t say!
But one customer, Imperial medical director Professor Nick Cheshire, puts them right: “It’s personal development based on what’s really happening – I’ve recommended it to colleagues.” As well he might: he is also on the Coalescence payroll as a consultant. As are two more Imperial medical directors, including the most senior, trust board member Professor David Taube.
A stable relationship
Also not mentioned in Coalescence’s blurb is that the horse leadership course is run by Redlands Equestrian Ltd, another company owned by Karen Johnson and counting Mark Davies (“a competitive endurance rider”) among its directors. Redlands operates from the couple’s impressive pile in the Hampshire countryside and its own travel agency in Bath, flogging horsey holidays around the world. But its latest accounts show, alarmingly for a company run by a woman also telling NHS trusts how to get into shape, that it too is in dire financial straits. By the end of August last year, it would have been insolvent were it not for credit totalling £121,000 from Coalescence Consulting (£49,000) and Scenario One (£72,000).
Since Imperial is reported to be struggling with a £40m shortfall of its own and contemplating hundreds of job cuts, somebody might ask whether the NHS’s scarce funds are best used propping up a failing horse business run by the wife of the boss. Might that someone be Imperial’s non-executive director Sir Thomas Legg, erstwhile scourge of spendthrift MPs as uncompromising post-scandal expenses auditor? http://www.private-eye.co.uk/sections.php?section_link=in_the_Back&issue=1300