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Tory donor runs agency fund

‘Chief executive of firm accused of ‘ripping off’ NHS on staffing is a Tory donor’

The chief executive of a private equity firm that owns one of the staffing agencies accused by the government of “ripping off” the NHS is a major donor to the Conservative Party, The Independent can reveal.

Ramez Sousou, founder and co-chief executive of transatlantic private equity firm TowerBrook Capital Partners, which owns Independent Clinical Services (ICS), has donated just under half a million pounds to the party since 2010, including more than £75,000 since his company bought ICS last year. Mr Sousou founded TowerBrook in 2005 and retains a stake in the company.

His wife, Tiziana Cantoni, who is not connected to TowerBrook, has also donated personal funds to the party.

On Tuesday the Government announced a drive to crack down on agencies providing nurses to NHS trusts, which Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said are ripping off hospitals with “extortionate” fees.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Hunt said: “We will wrestle the initiative away from expensive staffing agencies that have been ripping off our hospitals with their exorbitant rates, and insist nationally negotiated frameworks are used instead, which make use of the NHS’s collective bargaining power.”

The move came after it emerged that a number of companies have experienced a surge in their revenue from supply staff to the NHS over the past four years. Of these, ICS was identified as a major beneficiary, enjoying a 60 per cent increase in revenue between 2011 and 2013.

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Records of donations to political parties kept by the Electoral Commission reveal total payments of £473,800 to the Conservatives by Mr Sousou since 2010, with Ms Cantoni giving £385,000 to the party in the same period. Of this, £155,000 has been donated since TowerBrook took over ICS in 2014.

Mr Sousou has attended dinners organised by the Conservative Leader’s Group, a fundraising group described by party as the “premier supporter Group of the Conservative Party”. He was present at a dinner in 2012, which was also attended by David Cameron and George Osborne.

Towerbook Capital acquired ICS in June last year, saying it was a “time of strong market dynamics for healthcare staffing services in the UK”. Within the ICS group are a number of major temporary staffing companies serving the NHS, including Pulse, Frontline Staffing and Thornbury Nursing.

The Government has been widely attacked after its announcement to crack down on agencies, with critics blaming a lack of funding and investment in recruitment of the root cause of shortages creating opportunities for exploitation by agencies.

Speaking to The Independent, National Health Action Party founder Dr Clive Peedel said: “It’s in the interest of these agencies for the NHS to be understaffed, it works on supply and demand; the cause of the problem is inadequate staffing in the face of a rising population.”

In April the Royal College of Nursing said that despite government claims to have hired more nurses, its own research revealed a drop in the overall numbers, from 317,370 in May 2010 to 315,525 in December 2014. The amount spent by NHS trusts on both agency nursing staff and locum doctors has soared in the past three years.

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “All donations to the Conservative Party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with the Electoral Commission rules”.

TowerBrook Capital and ICS both declined to comment.

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