Serco
Last Updated: March, 2019

In 2006 Serco won a five-year contract to run GP out of hours services in Cornwall, undercutting the local GP co-operative by £1.5-million. The contact was renewed in 2011, but in 2012 the service was criticised by the  Care Quality Commission  after whistle-blowers drew attention to problems with under-staffing and data falsification.

Valerie Michie, Managing Director of Serco's health care business said: The services in Cornwall ...are no longer core to the future delivery of our health care strategy.

Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust entered into a 50:50 partnership with Serco who took over the hospital's pathology department. Subsequently Corporate Watch (an independent research group) uncovered 400 clinical incidents in 2011, including; loosing and mishandling samples, frequently breaching agreed turnaround times, and breaching critical risk levels for turnaround times on 14 occasions and using under-trained staff. Apparently staff morale was at an all time low, and managers were more concerned with marketing than laboratory work. Corporate Watch concluded:

Running a pathology service without pathologists does not sound like a blueprint for success. Contrary to the current government's frequent promises that its reforms will put medical practitioners at the centre of decision making in the NHS, involving private companies like Serco seems to do exactly the opposite, giving more power to non-medical managers. [The public-private partnership at] GSTS has been going for less than three years and yet it has already, as promised, shown what involving the private sector will do to the NHS.

In 2012 Serco also won a £140-million contract for community health services in Suffolk, undercutting the local NHS Trust by £10-million. Serco began by cutting 137 jobs. The local  Clinical Commissioning Group  then found numerous problems including; inappropriate workloads, high stress levels, poor morale, and lack of equipment and poor infection control.

In 2013 The Public Accounts Committee accused Serco of bullying employees, providing a short staffed and sub-standard service and manipulating data to hide the truth. Serco admitted 252 instances of data falsification. The report went on to say that Serco had consistently failed to meet national quality standards.

In 2014 Corporate Watch reported that Serco has been overcharging the NHS to the tune of £283-thousand in a sample 3-month period.

The government temporarily banned Serco for bidding on new contracts until it cleaned up its act, but in 2014 they were once again winning NHS contacts despite being under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

A Survation survey showed that 80 percent of the public wanted rid of Serco, and happily in 2014 Serco announced it was pulling out of the UK clinical health services market.

Multi-national corporations like Serco are experts at bidding for contracts, but rubbish at doing everything else. This is because they have the deep pockets needed for consultants and legal experts to help them bid successfully, but they are rapaciously profit-driven employing all techniques available to extract profit from public services, including; data falsification, overcharging, staff cuts, poor pay and conditions for staff, delivering a substandard service and selling or terminating contracts when it suits them.

The fact that health care contracts have to be put out to tender to allow the likes of Serco to bid on them, also means that NHS clinical staff who are ideally suited to provide their services are forced to take time (often months) away from their patients to put together commercial bids for services that (in all cases initially, and in many cases still) they already provide.