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Labour calls for freeze on new NHS deals with private sector

GP standards of care have fallen since 2010, says Labour

Adrian O'Dowd

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

No more new deals between the NHS and the private sector should be signed before the next general election, Labour will claim today.

The Labour Party has called for a freeze on new deals to allow the general public a say in whether more deals should be agreed upon given that standards of care provided by GPs and A&E departments have dropped in recent years, it claims.

The party’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham was due to deliver a speech today in Manchester, as part of Labour’s summer series on the electoral choice the country faces next year.

Mr Burnham will call on NHS England to delay the signing of new NHS contracts for clinical services with the private sector until after the 2015 general election except where there are issues of service quality that need to be addressed or threats to ongoing service provision.

A number of proposed contracts, due to be signed in the remaining months of this parliament, would tie the hands of the next government, he argues, also claiming that the British public has never given its consent for “far-reaching and forced privatisation of services”.

Burnham was due to show that standards of care have deteriorated in recent years, including GP services, cancer care and A&E waits, as a result of the current government’s handling of the NHS.

Labour said it had now been confirmed that NHS spending on private sectors and other providers last year broke through the £10 billion barrier for the first time.

Mr Burnham will say: “The reason why people love and trust the NHS is because, for all its faults, it is a service that is based on people not profits. That principle sets our health service apart. But it is now under real threat.

“When his reorganisation hit trouble and was paused, David Cameron explicitly promised that it would not lead to more forced privatisation of services.

“On his watch, NHS privatisation is being forced through at pace and scale. Commissioners have been ordered to put all services out to the market. NHS spending on private and other providers has gone through the £10 billion barrier for the first time. When did the British public ever give their consent for this?’

Labour has carried out an analysis which shows that contracts about to be signed would run for the five years of the next parliament and beyond.

“This is not acceptable,” he said. “Contracts like this will tie the hands of the next government in a crucial area of public policy. But, even worse, they are being signed without a mandate from the public.

“Further forced privatisation of services, not based on clinical decision making, should not proceed until the public has had a proper say.”

A spokesperson for the Conservative Party said: “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.”

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