CombineMed and NHS — The Details are Slowly Emerging

In the past 24 hours, I have had multiple conversations with various parties to the CombineMed, CombineNet, UMPC and NHS case that was originally reported in the London Times this weekend. While there is a lot that I do not feel comfortable disclosing at this point, I will share a couple of snippets of what I've learned so far. I am also hoping to get the CombineNet perspective as well, but I have not been able to reach them to discuss the issues as of yet.

As of 12:00 PM CST today, my sources suggest that the three individuals rumored to have been arrested include one of the two partners at a consulting firm that received payments from various parties to lobby on behalf of CombineMed, an NHS procurement manager and potentially another NHS employee. It would appear that according to my sources, UPMC, a joint venture partner with CombineNet in CombineMed -- both the US and UK corporate entities -- was the one leading many of the discussions with Americium, a firm named in the investigation and in the original Londom Times article and CombineMed, UK. At least one party to the case on the NHS side accepted monetary payments from Americium after a contract was awarded, according to former CombineMed employee, Sean Martyn. He also noted that from CombineMed's perspective at the time, UPMC brought Americium in to help, so "generally speaking CombineMed followed the direction of Americium."

Apparently, my sources suggest these payments were to be given as part of this individual's incentive to see CombineMed receive contracts with other NHS trusts. This individual, who was arrested in January, was employed by NHS at the time yet was also offered a future job at Americium, the firm hired by CombineMed to lobby the UK government, according to Martyn.

To date, three out of the original four whistleblowers appear to have been dismissed or pushed out of their roles after raising a flag that something was amiss. Among the four signers of the original internal CombineNet/CombineMed "whistling blowing" memorandum, only one remained an employee shortly thereafter. In the words of Martyn, one of the signers of the memorandum, "a couple weeks before I submitted the memorandum, I was given a pay-raise and the week after they dismissed me, claiming the 'at will state' employment statute of Pennsylvania when I questioned why."

According to Martyn, "Americium instructed CombineMed to 'put it to bed' when other competitors raised questions directly relating to the RFP requirements." The relationship that existed between Americium, CombineMed and NHS was complicated as parties representing different entities were free to speak for each other, despite potential conflicts of interest, according to some involved. In one case, Martyn suggested that a Director at NHS was known to be so close to one of the two Americium partners based on a rugby relationship and personal friendship that his colleague at Americium could "speak on his behalf in dealings" with CombineMed.

Please click here to see my disclosures and affiliations pertaining to those organizations and individuals mentioned in this post.

- Jason Busch

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