Former UK prime minister David Cameron lobbied the NHS for access to staff’s personal data, weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cameron was acting on behalf of financial services firm Greensill Capital, which he had financial interest in. His work for the firm, which filed for administration in March 2021, has led to increased scrutiny of private companies’ lobbying.
Greensill had acquired two startups – the Australian app Earnd and UK provider FreeUp, both of which offer earned wage access (EWA) services, allowing users to receive advance salary payments.
In an email dated March 2020, published by The Sunday Times [behind paywall], Cameron asked NHSX CEO Matthew Gould for access to electronic staff records (ESR) to help Greensill roll out the Earnd app to the NHS.
He wrote that Earnd would “be much slicker if it can obtain access to employee data in ESR.”
Cameron has since defended his actions in a statement, saying: “It was a time of national crisis with fears about businesses’ access to credit. Greensill Capital wanted to offer a genuine and legitimate proposal to help with this.”
Prior to the email, Cameron had also discussed the Earnd scheme over a drink with health secretary Matt Hancock and via text messages with chancellor Rishi Sunak.
In October 2020, Earnd announced a partnership with NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS) allowing NHS employees access to their earned income before payday via the existing MYSBSPay app. Because the service was offered for free it sidestepped the usual open competition process.
NHS Business Services Authority ESR set up API technical integration capability to allow trusts and Earnd to validate specific employee data provided by individuals.
The Royal Free London NHS Foundation, Wye Valley NHS Trust and George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust, were among those that signed up, but it appears few employees used the service. A spokesperson for the Royal Free told Healthcare It News that fewer than 700 of its staff used Earnd.
WHY IT MATTERS
Cameron gave Greensill access to people at the top of the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS. A government review and three separate MP-led inquiries are now looking into his lobbying attempts.
THE LARGER CONTEXT
Meanwhile, Earnd’s Australian branch was acquired by UK finance firm Wagestream last week for a private amount. Wagestream offers a EWA service to seven NHS trusts, as part of a wellbeing programme including financial education, coaching, savings tools and wages visibility.
ON THE RECORD
An NHSE spokesperson said: “The NHS has a duty to support staff while using taxpayers’ money wisely and so officials do meet organisations who may be able to provide good value services which are effective, and when ideas are taken forward, contracts are put through the appropriate and transparent tendering processes. The proposals were not taken forward in this case.”
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.