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£15bn of NHS contracts outsourced to private sector since 2015

89% rise in worth of NHS contracts won by private sector

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 02 December 2019

A trade union is claiming that NHS contracts worth almost £15bn have been awarded to private companies in the past five years.

The GMB Union, the union for NHS workers, revealed details at the weekend of research that it commissioned from Tussell, a data provider on UK government contracts and spend, that showed the scale of the “privatisation” of NHS service contracts.

The research found that outsourcing contracts with a lifetime value of £24bn had been awarded by NHS bodies since 2015 and of these, almost two thirds (£14.7bn or 61%) of the value was awarded to private companies.

The remainder was awarded to intra-traded NHS services and other providers, such as charities.

NHS contracts worth £3.6bn were awarded to private companies in 2018 – an increase of 20% on the year before and so far in 2019, private companies had won NHS outsourcing contracts worth £3.3bn.

In addition, the value of identified outsourcing contracts awarded to private companies almost doubled from £1.9bn in 2015 to £3.6bn in 2018, the most recent full year for which figures are available – an increase of 89%.

The union said that of the top 20 private providers to the NHS, Care UK Clinical Services and Virgin Care Services had won the most contracts since 2015 – the companies were awarded 17 and 13 contracts respectively.

The single most valuable contract was won by Sirona Health and Care – which is constituted as a Community Interest Company – that was awarded a £1.09bn contract to provide adult community health services in areas of the South West for 10 years.

The second most valuable contract was a PFI extension awarded last year by St Helens & Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust which was worth £500m.

GMB said it had been campaigning for a long time against outsourcing in the NHS and to scrap the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which opened up more NHS services to the market.

Rehana Azam, GMB national secretary, said: “These shocking figures expose the extent to which our NHS is increasingly falling into private hands.

“Outsourcing is bad news for patients and NHS staff. Time and time again, we have seen private providers fail to deliver while our members’ terms and conditions and the NHS national agreement have been undermined.

“We are clear that it is safer and in the long-run it is better value for services such as care, patient transfers and facilities management to be brought back in house. NHS services should be provided in the public interest, not for private profit. Urgent action is needed to end outsourcing in the NHS.”

In response to the GMB’s research, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock told The Independent newspaper: “I love our NHS and am completely committed to ensuring it always remain free at the point of use. The NHS has always used private provision – GPs, opticians and pharmacists all operate privately. The important thing is that patients access the care and treatment they need, free at the point of use.”

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