Sturgeon meets US defence giant which won £27million contract to work for the NHS

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The First Minister visited the headquarters of Leidos in Washington DC

The First Minister visited the headquarters of Leidos in Washington DC (Image: Getty Images)

The First Minister visited the headquarters of Leidos in the suburbs of Washington DC during a taxpayer-funded visit to North America in February.

As the fourth biggest US defence contractor with annual revenues of £7.5billion, its operations range from spy agency eavesdropping to the Pentagon’s nuclear weapons progamme.

Three months before Ms Sturgeon’s visit, the firm was awarded a five-year deal worth £27million plus VAT to run the Scottish Government’s new public sector purchasing system.

The Purchase to Pay (P2P) network is used by every Scottish health board and it handles NHS orders worth hundreds of millions of pounds a year.

Despite selling off this role at the heart of the health service, the SNP leader is still promising to “protect” the NHS from a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

In a further display of hypocrisy, Ms Sturgeon and her top ministers have been lobbied by US drug giants on at least seven occasions over the past year and a half.

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said: “Anyone would think Nicola Sturgeon was trying to sell off Scotland’s NHS.

“This completely exposes her deceit on the issue. She should apologise for her scaremongering on the NHS, and admit her officials are actively involved in exactly the type of process she so hypocritically lectures about.”

Launching her manifesto last month, Ms Sturgeon said the SNP’s proposed NHS Protection Bill would “guarantee that trade deals will not undermine the founding principles of the NHS, nor open it to profit-driven exploitation”.

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs (Image: Getty Images)

Her meeting with Leidos executives including Chief Technology Officer Dr James Cantor and Civil Group President Angie Heise took place Monday, February 4 in Washington DC.

Former economy secretary Keith Brown also met bosses from the firm during a trade junket to the USA in April 2018.

The P2P contract was first advertised in November 2017 and awarded to Leidos on October 15, 2018.

At the time, Leidos UK Chief Executive Matt Wiles described it as “the lynchpin driving efficiency”, adding: “We are delighted to extend our work with our partners in the Scottish Government to deliver this vital shared service to the public sector.”

The firm has further IT support contracts with the Scottish Government that have been worth at least £14million in recent years. These also support purchasing across the entire public sector, including the NHS.

To further undermine Ms Sturgeon’s rhetoric, a recent health service purchasing report shows that only 30 per cent of NHS Scotland’s budget is spent within Scotland with contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds routinely awarded to US firms.

In the past year alone, these include a £1.1million IT contract with Baxter Healthcare (based in Illinois) and a £2million “quality improvement” contract with IHI (based in Boston).

There have also been dozens of multi-million pound medicines deals struck with US companies such as Pfizer, Gilead Sciences, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Merck & Co and Biogen.

And according to the Scottish Parliament lobbying register, representatives of many of these firms have had face-to-face meetings with Ms Sturgeon and her ministers in the past year and a half.

On June 9, 2018, former health secretary Shona Robison met representatives from both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson at a breakfast round-table at the SNP conference in Aberdeen.

Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison

Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison (Image: Getty Images)

Three weeks later, Ms Sturgeon and business minister Paul Wheelhouse met Pfizer’s UK boss Erik Nordkamp at the First Minister’s Hollyrood office. The meeting was requested by the drugs firm “to establish a link between Pfizer and the Scottish Government”.

On August 1, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay met PR man Andy McIver from the lobbying firm Media Matters at Operetta, an Italian restaurant in Glasgow.

The purpose of the meeting was “to inform the Cabinet Secretary of discussions between Pfizer and other Scottish Government ministers and special advisers which took place before his remit was expanded and which are now relevant to his portfolio.”

On September 18, lobbyists from Medtronic had talks with public health minister Joe Fitzpatrick and trade minister Ivan McKee during a “coffee break” at a Scottish Enterprise event.

Leidos is the fourth biggest US defence contractor

Leidos is the fourth biggest US defence contractor (Image: Getty Images)

Mr Mackay also had a breakfast briefing at swanky Hotel Du Vin in Edinburgh on January 23, 2019 with Pfizer’s Tracey Bowden, who told him about “the need for collaboration between health, NHS and industry”.

And on April 29, health secretary Jeane Freeman met David Weir from Gilead Sciences at the Scottish Parliament.

A Scottish Government spokesman said the P2P system was available across the public sector including NHS boards, central and local government, universities and colleges.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman added: “This is not how the NHS operates and the contract, which was announced over a year ago, is in no way involved in delivering healthcare for patients.

“We are absolutely committed to keeping Scotland’s NHS true to its founding principles – publicly-owned, publicly-operated, and free at the point of need.”

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