Halt NHS privatisation, says Labour's Burnham

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Labour has called for the NHS in England to stop privatising services until after the general election.

In a speech, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said "privatisation is being forced through at pace and scale".

He said voters needed a "proper debate" about the future of the NHS.

The government called this "pure political posturing" from a party with a record of privatisation when it was in power.

Labour argues the restructuring of the NHS, which came into force in 2013, led to privatisation by the back door.

This includes plans for the biggest outsourcing deal in NHS history which could see cancer care across Staffordshire privatised as part of a £1.2bn contract.


The Department of Health said that since 2010 a further 1.3% of the NHS budget was being spent in the private sector, with the total standing at about 6%.

Andy Burnham says 'NHS is based on people, not profits'

In his speech, Mr Burnham said: "Commissioners have been ordered to put all services out to the market, NHS spending on private and other providers has gone through the £10bn barrier for the first time.

"When did the British public ever give their consent for this?

"It is indefensible for the character of the country's most valued institution to be changed in this way without the public being given a say."

Mr Burnham has written to the boss of NHS England, Simon Stevens, to call for a pause in privatisation unless patient safety or service is at risk.

However, NHS England said most funding decisions were now being made by groups of GPs, who were given the purse-strings in the NHS reforms.


A government spokesman said Mr Burnham was playing politics and pointed to his record of privatisation while he was health secretary in the last Labour government.

"Use of the private sector by the NHS doubled in the last four years of Labour, a far bigger increase than under this government.

"Andy Burnham himself signed off the privatisation of Hinchingbrooke Hospital during Labour's final year so it is pure political posturing to try to interfere with doctors making the best clinical judgements for patients."

Healthcare team of nurses and doctors

Matt Tee, chief operating officer of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS Trusts, said the argument should be about what is right for patients.

He said: "Our members are very clear that there are plenty of things which keep them awake at night, but contracting is rarely cited as one of them."

Dr Steve Kell, one of the chairs of the group NHS Clinical Commissioners, said: "I am quite clear that no clinical commissioning group [CCG] has a privatisation agenda."

"CCGs are independent statutory bodies with a clear focus to improve services for our patients - to stop clinical commissioners from signing contracts where a local need has been identified will leave gaps in local clinical services putting patients at risk."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 835.

    It is obvious that the NHS cannot continue without drastic change. The service is abused because it is not properly valued by the end user. No-one paying for private care, such as dental treatment, would dream of not turning up for an appointment because they would still have to pay.
    People should be charged for missed appointments and suspended from NHS care until they pay up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.

    I'm a GP. My local CCG is privatising a lot of things and not giving ordinary GPs or local people any say in the matter.
    I am sorry but i can't see the issue here, if the patient gets the treatment they require, without paying for it at source, and the tax payer gets the best value for the money, who really cares who is giving the treatment.

    Not the patient,which is the point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    Private health care systems are more expensive than the NHS, which was one of the best value health care systems in the World. The Tories and LibDems don't care about best value or best care, they just don't like the ideology of the NHS (a state system). A privatised health service will be more expensive in the longrun. My local CCG is using private companies where the care is cheap and nasty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 806.

    The NHS is about clinical excellence, privatization is about profit. We just need to be sure that we know what we are voting for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    This idea that the private sector is bad and public sector good is just complete nonsense. Yes the private sector makes profit (which pays for public services) but the public sector pursues its own interest as well. which may not be in the interest of the patient. Just look how the target culture has prompted NHS managers to manipulate figures to enhance their own careers.


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