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Majority of doctors fear growing ‘privatisation’ of NHS

Two thirds of doctors concerned about NHS privatisation

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 18 April 2016

More than two thirds of doctors are uncomfortable with what they call the “privatisation” of NHS services, according to a report published today by the BMA.

The BMA said that every year for the past five years, the amount of money spent by NHS England on healthcare that is provided by the independent sector has increased, with the current yearly total at nearly £7bn – around 6.3% of the total NHS budget.

Therefore, it wanted to examine the increasing extent of privatisation within the NHS.

The report ‘Privatisation and independent sector provision of NHS healthcare’ examines the amount of NHS England budget that is spent on independent providers, looks at case studies of where independent providers have taken over NHS services and the effect on healthcare provision, and contains a survey of doctors’ opinions of independent sector provision of NHS healthcare.

The survey in the report found that more than two-thirds (67%) of doctors were fairly or very uncomfortable with private providers delivering NHS services, with the most common concerns being that it destabilised and fragmented NHS services.

The authors of the report also found that in 2014-15, £6.9bn was spent on procuring services from independent sector providers, which is a 5.4% annual increase.

Doctors believed that the primary motivation for some private sector providers was profit, rather than providing the highest possible standard of care for patients.

One of the report’s recommendations is that private providers should be held to the same standards as NHS providers including transparent reporting of patient safety incidents and performance.

It also recommends that safeguards should be introduced to protect NHS patients and services if contracts are terminated early by independent providers.

Before any independent sector provider is chosen as a preferred bidder, there should be a thorough impact analysis taken to ensure that the decision will not destabilise existing NHS services or cause disruptions to the patient pathway, says the report.

Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: “At a time when the NHS is facing huge financial pressure, more attention needs to be paid to private sector provision of NHS services to assess whether it provides value for money, high-quality, safe care to patients, as well as the impact it has on other NHS services.

“The NHS exists to provide the highest quality care for its patients. Anyone who doesn’t accept that, or gets in the way of achieving it, should not be allowed near it. That’s true for anyone who works in the health service, and it’s also true for any individual or company providing services within it.

“Patient care simply cannot take second place to finances. In an era of declining funding, rising patient demand and staff shortages, we need a new way forward that addresses the challenges facing our NHS.”


Picture credit: Marbury / Shutterstock.com

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