A PRIVATE healthcare firm whose wealthy clients were given donor organs bought from children is in talks to run transplant operations for the NHS.
Department of Health officials have already had three meetings this year with representatives of the General Healthcare Group about taking over NHS work.
But a subsidiary of the General Healthcare Group – Netcare – was last year fined nearly £700,000 after pleading guilty to illegally transplanting human organs inSouth Africa.
Health Minister Simon Burns confirmed in a Parliamentary answer that government officials met with the company – which also owns BMI Healthcare – on January 27, April 14 and June 6. They are understood to have discussed possible bids for NHS contracts, including organ transplant operations.
Netcare admitted last November that it had recruited children to donate kidneys which were then transplanted to wealthy clients. More than 100 illegal operations were carried out at a hospital inDurban,South Africa, between 2001 and 2003.
In a statement issued last November, the company said payments were “made to the donors for their kidneys, and that certain of the kidney donors were minors”. The statement added: “Certain employees participated in these illegalities, and (the hospital) wrongly benefited from the proceeds.”
The revelation will deepen fears over the Government’s NHS privatisation plans and comes after it emerged that a German firm had held secret talks with ministers on running 20 hospitals inEngland.
Labour MP Gareth Thomas said: “This case raises serious concerns about the future of the health service and David Cameron’s plans to allow a far greater number of unregulated private operators to run our health care.”
General Healthcare Group confirmed it was engaged in bidding for NHS work but added: “We are not able to disclose what bids we are currently working on for reasons of commercial confidentiality.”
The company said the organ-selling scandal had been dealt with “by the South African legal system and is now closed”.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “It is not unusual for the Department to hold meetings with external organisations. Before entering any formal agreement we would check to ensure that potential bidders are fit for purpose.”
The revelation comes as MPs today prepare to vote on the Government’s controversial Health and Social Care Bill.