April 13, 2024

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GPs call for health tech boss Frank Hester to resign after Abbott remarks | Frank Hester

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GPs are calling on the Tory donor Frank Hester to resign from his health tech company after his remarks about Diane Abbott, which have been widely condemned as racist and misogynist.

Hester’s company TPP runs the electronic patient records of almost half the medical practices in the UK, making them his main UK clients. On Thursday the BMA’s general practice committee (GPC), which represent all UK GPs, voted in favour of an emergency motion urging Hester to stand down from the company with immediate effect.

The Guardian revealed on Monday that at a meeting in 2019, Hester said seeing Abbott on TV made “you want to hate all black women” and that the long-serving MP “should be shot”. Hester has apologised for the remarks but denied they were motivated by race or gender.

The GPC urged family doctors to consider Hester’s comments about Abbott before agreeing to sign any more contracts with TPP.

An emergency motion was debated today in response to reports of comments allegedly made by Frank Hester OBE, chief executive of The Phoenix Partnership (TPP).

The motion, below, has passed in all parts. [1/2] pic.twitter.com/aQopaeIoED

— General Practice (@BMA_GP) March 14, 2024

The motion said: “This meeting is disgusted by the reported violent, openly racist and misogynistic comments, made by Frank Hester, director of The Phoenix Partnership (TPP), and directed at the Rt Hon Ms Diane Abbott MP.”

The GPC also noted that Hester’s comments “contravened NHS England’s fit and proper person test framework introduced in response to the 2019 Kark review recommendations”.

The motion “calls upon UK health boards to apply their own processes vigilantly when contracting external stakeholders whose views and values may not align with the wider professional NHS workforce”.

After the meeting, Dr Alan Stout and Dr Andrew Buist, co-chairs of the GPC, said: “This emergency motion makes clear how appalled GPs are. There is no room for racism or sexism in the NHS, and the committee believes he should resign his position with immediate effect.”

TPP has received more than £400m in contracts from the NHS and other government bodies since 2016.

Hester has given £10m to the Conservatives, making him the party’s largest donor. He is also reported to have donated a further £5m earlier this year. Rishi Sunak is under increasing pressure to return the money after the disclosure of Hester’s remarks.

When the £5m donation was announced this month, Hester rejected the idea that he was giving money to secure more government contracts, saying many came from hospitals and GPs. “GPs decide which software they’re using, not Rishi Sunak,” he said.

Dr Steve Taylor, a spokesperson for the general practice committee of the Doctors’ Association UK, backed the GPC motion.

He said: “Doctors’ Association UK GP committee have significant concerns over the recent comments reportedly made by Frank Hester, owner of TPP, one of the major suppliers of GP IT systems. The GP workforce is a diverse community of people and these comments are deeply upsetting. We agree with other GP bodies that it calls into question the leadership of TPP.”

TPP has been contacted for comment.

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Meanwhile, the leaders of 10 prominent anti-racism groups have written to Sunak raising concerns about Hester’s remarks and calling on the prime minister to “unequivocally commit to fighting racism”.

They said “an increasingly normalised culture of racism that has been allowed to fester under the current administration” meant Hester “felt emboldened to express vile sentiments”.

The letter signed by David Weaver, the chair of Operation Black Vote; Shabna Begum, the chief executive of the Runnymede Trust; Timi Okuwa, of the Black Equity Organisation; Jeremy Crook, of Action for Race Equality; and Zara Mohammed, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, urged Sunak to take “immediate and tangible steps to address this situation”.

They said: “We would invite you to take this opportunity to champion the cause of anti-racism and to lead by example, demonstrating that the UK government is unequivocally committed to fighting racism and fostering a society where equality, respect, and inclusivity are paramount.”

Lee Jasper, a signatory and chair of the Alliance of Police Accountability, said Abbott’s case had brought together a broad coalition of leaders from the most influential UK African, Asian and Caribbean anti-racist groups “in a remarkable show of unity”.

He said the case raised questions about political fundraising ethics and “casts a spotlight on the ongoing challenges of racism and sexism in UK politics”.

He said: “It serves as a stark reminder of the importance of consistent and principled stands against race discrimination and the need for all political parties to reflect deeply on their policies, practices and responses to racism within their ranks.”


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