April 13th, 2017
A private NHS contractor has gone bankrupt. And in doing so it sums up the Tories’ health policies
The bankruptcy of a private NHS contractor has left staff out of pocket and the health service scrabbling around to make up a shortfall in services. But the collapse of the provider also shows gaping holes in the government’s handling of the NHS.
Pearl Linguistics provided sign and foreign language interpretation services to the NHS and the Ministry of Justice. But in March, the company filed for bankruptcy, reportedly leaving more than 50 interpreters and translators with wages owed.
The company had faced heavy criticism from trade unions for its working practices. Professional Interpreters for Justice (PI4J) is an umbrella campaign group of Unite the Union, for interpreting professionals. In 2015, it accused (pdf p2) Pearl of “continuing to whittle away… interpreters’ fees”. Following reports of the company’s bankruptcy, PI4J said:
“The government has an obsession, bordering on mania, with outsourcing to private companies what should be publicly-run services. These companies promise that they will make the contract run more smoothly while implementing so-called ‘efficiency savings’ – but the biggest cost element is staff wages and these are then slashed…”
And as the website Slator reported:
Issues against Pearl are not new. As early as 2013 [it] landed on the so-called blacklist of one translation blog. In 2014, Leena Dewis cited the ‘Pearl Linguistics Ltd. Scam’ as ‘the biggest scam that is still getting money off the NHS’. More recently, on 20 February 2017, Nataliya Vesnina posted on TranslationDirectory.com that: ‘these people [Pearl] have recently upgraded from bad payers to non-payers’.
Speaking to The Canary, Nicky Evans from the National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters (NUBSLI) said:
Pearl was a horrendous agency, yet they still won these contracts. In fact they regularly had to subcontract, as interpreters didn’t want to work for them. Sheffield interpreters had to begrudgingly take on work from Pearl as there is little in the area. A lot of interpreters are probably now owed money.
Unable to “compete”
The company has so far not published the reasons for its bankruptcy. And despite repeated attempts by the media, its founder and CEO Zeynep Demirbilek has not publicly commented on the company’s collapse.