Ex-Amazon UK boss applies to become head of the NHS

Ex-Amazon UK boss who faced controversy over tech giant’s tax bill applies to become head of the NHS

  • Douglas Gurr, from Leeds, has applied to become the head of the NHS in England
  • Applicant was a global vice-president and head of Amazon UK from 2016-2020
  • He faced controversy over Amazon’s tax practices and access to NHS data

The former head of Amazon UK has applied to become the head of the NHS in England. 

Douglas Gurr, 57, was a global vice-president and head of Amazon UK from 2016 to 2020. 

The applicant, from Leeds, who faced controversy over Amazon’s tax practices and access to NHS data, was interviewed by Treasury officials last week. 

The successful candidate will replace Lord Stevens of Birmingham, who has been the chief executive of the health firm since 2014.

Douglas Gurr, 57, was a global vice-president and head of Amazon UK from 2016 to 2020 and has applied to become the head of the NHS in England

It is likely to be controversial after Amazon’s UK corporation tax bill halved to £4.5million in 2016, when Gurr took over as head of the UK branch, The Sunday Times reported. 

The publication also revealed in 2019 that the company had been given free access to data from the NHS, with a partnership going beyond Alexa smart speaker. 

Last year, Gurr told the Financial Times that the company was ‘very happy to pay all the required taxes’.   

In Gurr’s time at the global retail giant, which also saw him operate as President of the company’s China operations, Amazon also came under criticism in 2019 for not doing enough to fight climate change.

Thousands of Amazon employees signed a letter to the company’s chief executive Jeff Bezos demanding an urgent need of leadership regarding its environmental impact. 

Unite union executive officer Sharon Graham, who is leading a campaign for trade union rights at Amazon, said: ‘Appointing a former Amazon boss as head of the NHS in England is like putting a fox in charge of a hen house.

‘It is an alarming signal from this Tory government. Amazon is steeped in corporate irresponsibility, including tax avoidance, poor working conditions and union busting.

‘Amazon’s values are completely at odds with the values of the NHS. Douglas Gurr should not be allowed anywhere near our prized health service.’

Gurr is also a non-executive director of the UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions.  

It comes as Sajid Javid warned hospital waiting lists could soar to 13 million in the coming months after more than a year of lockdowns and warnings not to burden the NHS.    

The new Health Secretary said internal modelling showed the current record number of 5.3million patients awaiting treatment could more than double this summer.

It comes as Sajid Javid warned hospital waiting lists could soar to 13 million in the coming months after more than a year of lockdowns and warnings not to burden the NHS 

He believes the pandemic has had a huge impact on other health problems as well as affecting those who decided not to seek treatment for fear of catching the virus in hospital.         

Modelling shown to the Health Secretary showed seven million people who would have normally sought medical treatment did not during the pandemic. 

This includes tens of thousands of people who are believed to have missed out on checks for cancer and heart disease treatment, on top of untreated mental health issues. 

Javid said clearing the backlog is one of his top priorities and current proposals include more virtual appointments and relying on private hospitals to provide care. 

Who is Douglas Gurr?

Douglas Gurr is the current Director of the Natural History Museum in London after taking the role last year. He is also a chairman of the British Heart Foundation and was a global vice-president and head of Amazon UK from 2016-2020. 

The businessman and father-of-two has also held positions in the civil service, McKinsey & Co and at ASDA, where he was a main board director. 

He joined Amazon in 2011 and was China’s country manager from 2014 to 2016, before taking the role of head of Amazon UK in 2016. 

The British businessman revealed that his aim during his time at Amazon was to make it more open to the public, resulting in the company opening up warehouses to public tours and taking part in political debates. 

Under his stewardship, Amazon also moved away from hiring employees on zero hour contracts. 

Gurr was also behind Amazon’s bid to broadcast Premier League games via Amazon Video, with the first English top-flight matches shown on the service in December 2019.  

Gurr is also a non-executive director of the UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions. 

In July 2018, Gurr claimed a no-deal Brexit could lead to civil unrest ‘within two weeks’ and received widespread attention.   

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