Reforms to the NHS which sweep away much of the framework set in place under David Cameron will see the health service and partners work more closely, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said earlier this month.
It was unclear what this would mean for privatisation of the health service. It now comes as the Government has been accused of ‘NHS privatisation by stealth’
The White Paper brings together the NHS, social care and local government to make decisions with the aim of providing integrated care.
The proposals see a tendering rule scrapped, which officials say has created unnecessary competition and made it difficult for councils and different parts of the NHS to set up joint teams and pool their budgets.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said it was not clear whether the proposed reforms will lead to less privatisation.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “There is no compulsory tendering of contract but contracts can still go out to the private sector and as far as we can tell the contracts that have gone out, there’s no insistence that they should come back in.
“If you look at the detail of the reforms, it suggests that representatives of the private sector can actually sit on these new local care bodies and I think that’s the first time that’s happened in history.”
Mr Ashworth also said some other things were lacking in the plan.
He said: “As far as I can tell so far, there’s nothing in these reforms about a long-term plan for social care, there’s nothing in these reforms which will give us a plan to bring waiting lists down, which have ballooned in the last year and were huge before we went into the crisis.
“Those big waiting lists mean that many people are at risk of permanent disability (and) of losing their livelihood – we desperately need a plan to get those waiting lists down.”
Privatisation by stealth
Now one of the UK’s biggest GP practice operators has passed into the hands of the US health insurance group Centene Corporation, which campaigners claim is “privatisation of the NHS by stealth”, reports The Guardian.
Howard Beckett from Unite Tweeted: “27th November 2019. Jeremy Corbyn warned us that the Tories were handing our NHS over to USA. The press called him a liar. Today, 500,000 NHS Patients have been handed over to a US Private Health Corporation. Corbyn was right.”
NHS Consultant Clinical Oncologist Clive Peedell Tweeted: “As soon as you introduce the profit motive into healthcare, money is diverted from patient care into the pockets of CEOs, directors, & shareholders. Increasing privatisation of the #NHS is always bad news for patient care. We should all be concerned.”
Emeritus Professor of Accounting, Prem Sikka, Tweeted: “The NHS is not safe with the Tories: NHS GP practice operator with 500k patients passes into hands of US health insurer. Healthcare should not be a business, a profit-centre for corporations to exploit. Th UK govt is salami-slicing the NHS for corporations.”
The merger is expected to create the largest private supplier of GP services in the Britain covering half a million patients.
A coalition of doctors, campaigners and academics has voiced concerns in a letter sent this week to Matt Hancock.
The letter to Hancock said: “Whilst we imagine you will not be sympathetic to those of us who consider that US health insurers have no place in the provision of NHS services, we ask you to consider carefully the reasons for our request.
“Most of the CCGs have published nothing about this significant change, and held no meetings in public … This matter is an example of the privatisation of the NHS by stealth to which we have consistently drawn attention, and which you have, equally consistently, dismissed.”
Pollock told the Guardian: “What we’re really worried about is changes in the model of care and quality of service, especially in areas of high deprivation. Practices may employ fewer GPs – and they may bring in substitutes for GPs like pharmacists and nurses – there may be cuts in services and reduced access, for example, closures of branch surgeries.”