The sitting MP is worried at claims by California-based health firm Kaiser Permanente that it has links with the Countess and city-based mental health services provider, Cheshire and Wirral Partnership (CWP) NHS Foundation Trust.
Both organisations have been left scratching their heads trying to remember any visits or links with CWP saying 'no discussions' have taken place as far as they know.
However, an NHS North West bulletin does state that in 2011 clinical leaders from East Cheshire NHS Trust went on a study trip to the United States including a visit to Kaiser Permanente and other organisations to understand more about integrated care.
The article reads: “This is of particular importance in East Cheshire where a rapidly ageing population and many ‘frail elderly’ are creating greater challenges which require new ways of working.”
Mr Matheson commented: “When a private health company starts sniffing round the Countess of Chester Hospital it’s time for alarm bells to start ringing.
“We know the billions of pounds of NHS contracts that have been given to the private sector over the last couple of years such as Virgin Care and Circle Health.
“It was bad enough when NHS trusts were competing against each other rather than working together for patients’ benefit but with more private companies coming in we know the levels of service will only go one way.”
In February 2016, The Guardian ran an article with the headline ‘US firms look to capitalise as NHS becomes increasingly privatised’ which references Kaiser Permanente.
It reads: “The US insurance-based healthcare system is often cited for its high expenses, its unnecessary procedures and its failure to provide healthcare to all of its citizens, but that hasn’t stopped one US insurance company, Kaiser Permanente, from crossing the pond to advise the NHS how to run itself better.”
The section of the Kaiser Permanente website which mentions its contacts with UK and Cheshire-based health care organisations states: “Since 2004, Kaiser Permanente International’s programs have attracted participants from over 50 countries.
"We’ve hosted ministries of health and other government agencies, health plan administrators, medical directors, nursing leaders, researchers, population care managers, information technology specialists, graduate students, and others.
“The organizations below have participated in Kaiser Permanente International’s programs or invited Kaiser Permanente speakers to present in their countries.”
Kaiser Permanente is a favourite of Jeremy Hunt MP, secretary of state for health, who has twice visited the company.
He said in 2015: “If we want to be the best we must learn from the best – whether Kaiser Permanente in California, the Mayo Clinic, Alzira in Spain, Apollo in India or anyone else - and I look forward to developing further international partnerships over the months ahead.”