More than £1bn of NHS services are to be opened to competition from private companies and charities.
The government will open up more than £1bn of NHS services to competition from private companies and charities, reported the Guardian on 17th July. It will lead to the “privatisation of the entire health service” it said.
In the first wave, beginning in April, eight NHS areas – including services for back pain, adult hearing services and wheelchair services for children – will be open for competition. If successful, “any qualified provider” will be allowed, from 2013, to deliver more complicated clinical services in maternity and chemotherapy.
Even Labour’s shadow health secretary, John Healey said it was “not about giving more control to patients, but setting up a full-scale market”. “The Tory-led government is pushing ahead with its wasteful and unnecessary NHS reorganisation, rather than focusing on improving patient care. Their policies were just a step towards privatisation. The government insists the NHS must save £20bn over the next four years”.
Writing in Labour Briefing, John Healey said: “In its original form the NHS bill was more than three times longer than the 1946 Act that set up the NHS and it has already been subjected to hundreds of amendments”. “Furthermore, the revised Health And Social Care bill is to be put before Parliament the day after the Summer recess, leaving MPs no chance to read the details of the bill before they vote on it”.
A Unison spokesman added: “Patients will be little more than consumers, as the NHS becomes a market-driven service, with profits first and patients second, and they will be left without the services they need as forward planning in the NHS becomes impossible.”
A spokesman for the British Medical Association questioned the assumption that increasing competition will mean improving choice, and said: “The Government is misleading the public by repeatedly stating that there will be no privatisation of the NHS”.
From April 2012 eight types of health services will be opened to competition:
• Services for back and neck pain.
• Adult hearing services in the community.
• Continence services (adults and children).
• Diagnostic tests closer to home.
• Wheelchair services (children).
• Podiatry (feet) services.
• Leg ulcer and wound healing.
• Talking Therapies (primary care psychological therapies, adults).
Max Pemberton commented in The Telegraph on July 26th: “There are 15 clauses that will allow private companies to buy and asset-strip NHS facilities. This means that in these areas the NHS will no longer exist. Sure, the logo will still be there, but the NHS will no longer be national, any more than British Telecom is”. “The health secretary and the Prime Minister assure us the NHS will not be privatised when the legislation they are pushing through explicitly suggests otherwise”.
Labour Briefing – The Privatisation of NHS
British Medical Journal: The Privatisation of NHS