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30 November 2022

Cabinet Office paid almost £2m for contract offering private healthcare for civil servants

The government department spent £1.96m on a contract offering employees “affordable private healthcare”.

By Zoë Grünewald

Offering private healthcare to civil servants, among other “employee perks”, has cost the Cabinet Office almost £2m, the New Statesman can reveal.

Two weeks ago, the New Statesman reported that Whitehall civil servants had been encouraged to get “affordable private healthcare” amid the NHS crisis via an employee perks and benefits scheme. Some staff from the Cabinet Office received an email that offered them the chance to sign up to Benenden Health, a private York-based healthcare company, for just £11.90 a month. The email said: “At a time when every one of us wants the security of health, we want you to know we’re here for you.

“Many are finding it difficult getting in contact with a GP and may experience extended NHS waiting times for diagnosis and treatment.”

The New Statesman can now reveal that that scheme is with a company called Edenred, and the value of the contract with the Cabinet Office is almost £1.96m. Edenred calls itself an “employee experience platform helping businesses transform their engagement strategy by giving staff access to a wide range of perks”.

The value of the contract was revealed in an answer at the end of last week to a written parliamentary question tabled by the shadow health secretary Wes Streeting. The Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office Jeremy Quin answered the question on behalf of the Cabinet Office. “Edenred is a cross-government supplier procured through fair and open competition via the Crown Commercial Service procurement frameworks,” he said.

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“The Cabinet Office currently has one contract with Edenred which acts as a benefits hub for our employees. The current value of the contract is £1,960,000; however, a proportion of this money is an initial outlay from the Cabinet Office which will be returned to the public purse through contribution which will be made to the two employee salary sacrifice schemes (cycle to work and childcare vouchers).”

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Streeting said, “What are ministers doing spending millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money promoting private healthcare to civil servants when patients are finding it impossible to see a GP?

“Instead of wasting public funds, the government should adopt Labour’s plans to bring down waiting times for all patients, abolish non-doms [tax status], and train thousands more doctors and nurses every year.”

[See also: The Chancellor’s funding won’t treat the NHS’s financial headache]

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