Research uncovering the fact that 70 per cent of NHS contracts in England and Wales are being awarded to private contractors is bad news for the future of the health service as public and free at the point of delivery, says critics of 'creeping privatisation'.
Key findings of a survey by the NHS Support Federation are that in excess of £5 billion worth of contracts to run or manage clinically related NHS services have been advertised in the first nine months since the competition regulations (section 75) were passed by the UK Parliament.
Some 400 contract opportunities have been advertised over the same period. Seventy per cent of the contracts that have been awarded since April 2013 have gone to commercial companies.
If this trend continues NHS providers will face a huge challenge to their income from commercial competition, the Federation says.
"This is a clear vindication of our assertion that this Government is increasing private sector involvement in the delivery and commissioning of NHS services – and a clear vindication of our assertion that this government lied to the public," said National Health Action Party (NHA) co-leader Dr Clive Peedell at the end of last week.
He continued “The Tories and Lib Dems have repeatedly claimed that their NHS reforms would not lead to increasing NHS privatisation. In their response to the Future Forum report, the Government stated they would rule out 'any question of privatisation', and Nick Clegg is on record as saying 'You told us you were worried about privatisation through the back door. So we have made that impossible'. The Department of Health website even stated that 'Health Minsters have said they will never privatise the NHS'. Andrew Lansley went one step further by accusing critics of 'ludicrous scaremongering'."
“But the new study by the NHS Support Federation has revealed that over £5 billion worth of contracts to run or manage clinically related NHS services have been advertised in the first 9 months since the competition regulations (section 75) were passed by Parliament. 70 per cent of those contracts that have been awarded since April 2013 have gone to commercial companies," commented Dr Peedell.
“The argument that ‘it doesn’t matter who provides care, as long as it is free at the point of use’ is totally misguided. It clearly does matter who provides the service, because the use of private sector creates requires an expensive and inefficient market system, which drains money from frontline care, fragments care, undermines professionalism, and destabilises local health economies.
“It creates a vicious circle of increasing health care costs and financial pressure on the NHS. It leads to staff cuts, hospital and ward closures, increased waiting lists, and fewer core services provided by the NHS as private companies cherry pick the most profitable services leaving the NHS with the high-risk and costly services. A failing NHS will further stimulate the secondary market in private healthcare insurance for those that can afford it, thus signalling the death knell for a universal healthcare service, free at the point of use,” he declared.
* Full report by NHS Support Federation:
* National Health Action Party: http://nhap.org/
* Article about NHS Privatisation by Dr Clive Peedell on openDemocracy: