Profit-driven firms have been winning far more NHS contracts than ministers admit and privatisation has increased significantly under the coalition government, the latest evidence shows.
Two new sets of figures, detailing who is being awarded contracts to provide NHS clinical services, both challenge the government’s claim that only 6% of the service’s budget goes to private firms.
Contracts monitored by the NHS Support Federation campaign group show that private firms won £3.54bn of £9.628bn worth of deals awarded in England last year – a win rate of 36.8%.
And responses from GP-led clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to a Labour freedom of information request reveal that private firms have been winning 40% of contracts CCGs have put out to tender, worth a total of £2.3bn, only slightly fewer than the 41% awarded to NHS bodies.
Labour also claim that NHS patients have had to endure longer waits for treatment as NHS hospitals have increasingly maximised their income from private patients, the number of which has gone up by as much as 58% since 2010. The NHS will end up as “a two-tier service”, with those paying privately being prioritised over other patients, unless action is taken to reverse the trend, the party claims.
Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said the figures it had collated “demolish [David] Cameron’s claim that there’s only been a modest increase in privatisation on his watch. The truth is there has been a sharp increase and the public has never been asked whether they want the NHS to go in this direction.”
Labour will on Saturday try to again use health to its advantage in the election campaign by pledging to reinstate the 2% limit of total income that NHS hospitals can earn by treating patients privately.
Ministers claim that the proportion of the NHS’s £100bn-plus budget going to private firms has risen from 4% under the previous Labour government to 6% during the coalition’s time in office.
This month, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, accused Labour of trying to “scare people about privatisation that isn’t happening”.
But Labour’s research found that of 5,071 contracts awarded by CCGs 2,098 (41%) went to NHS bodies and 2,024 (40%) went to private healthcare firms, such as Care UK. The GP-led groups took control of £69.2bn of NHS funding in 2013.
“David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt have not been honest with working people about the scale and pace of privatisation on their watch. They’ve tried to play it down but these figures show they simply cannot be trusted with the NHS,” said Burnham. “It is shocking to see private companies winning just as many contracts as the NHS, and some with links to the Tory Party too.”
In 2009-10, Labour’s last year in power, 129 NHS foundation trust hospitals earned £224m in total from private patient income (PPI). By 2013-14 that had grown to 142 trusts sharing £389m between them.
The coalition lifted the cap on how much trusts could earn from PPI from 2% to 49% as part of its unpopular shakeup of the English NHS under the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
The £3.5bn worth of contracts won by private firms is five times the £681m the NHS Support Federation identified the year before. It also represents a huge increase on the £205m of contracts awarded in 2010-11, the coalition’s first year.
Of 13 contracts awarded last year that were worth at least £100m, six went to private firms, another five to private consortiums and just two to NHS providers bidding on their own. For example, Virgin Care got a £280m deal to coordinate care for long-term illness and care of elderly people in East Staffordshire.
“The public need clear sight of what’s happening to the NHS ahead of 7 May. The government cannot go on denying NHS privatisation. If we stay on the same path the NHS will become dominated by big business and there is a real danger that it will not survive,” said Paul Evans, director of the NHS Support Federation, which is funded by individuals, charities and unions.
“This is proof positive of a steep escalation in the private sector’s hold over the NHS. The mammoth NHS reforms opened up the NHS to the market and business. There is no current limit on how far their involvement can go,” he added.
The Tories rejected Labour’s claims about growing privatisation and dismissed returning the private patient cap to 2%.
A spokesman said: “This is a gimmick from Labour. Official figures show that outsourcing accounts for just 6p in each NHS pound, and private patient income is actually falling as a proportion of hospital budgets.
“By fixating on privatisation that independent experts and [NHS England boss] Simon Stevens say is a myth, Labour betray patients because the real debate should be good care against poor and on their watch, terrible events at Mid Staffs went ignored for four years.”
Source – The Guardian, 24 April 2015
A union official has criticised a Labour council for putting 11 experienced health trainers out of a job after it chose a private company over the existing NHS provider.
The decision by Stockton Borough Council to award the contract to provide health trainer services to the private Leeds-based company More Life in preference to the existing providers – a team of 11 health trainers employed by the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust – means the NHS in the North-East is facing a redundancy bill for more than £200,000.
But the council defended its actions describing the NHS bid for the contract as “very poor” and stressing that the authority was heavily investing in a new family weight management service.
In 2005 the North-East was among the first areas in the country to benefit from NHS personal trainers.
But since public health budgets were switched from the NHS to local councils some contracts have been awarded to private companies.
More Life’s website says the company delivers weight management and health improvement programmes to individuals, families, local communities and within workplaces and has an impressive track record.
It was founded by Professor Paul Gately, one of the UK’s most respected experts in obesity and nutrition
“We are determined to get clear answers from Stockton Council and the trust as to why this has happened and why our members are facing redundancy instead of transferring to the new provider. It’s simply not right and we need to get to the bottom of this quickly. “
Stockton Borough Council’s director of public health, Peter Kelly, said:
“The Stockton Health and Wellbeing board has commissioned a new service for children and family weight management investing £1.4 million over the next three years and in addition to this is also currently investing nearly £200,000 per year in services for adults. North Tees and Hartlepool Trust was one of the bidders for the new service but the quality of its submission was very poor.”
Source – Northern Echo, 27 Mar 2015
NHS spending on private ambulances has soared in the North East, new figures have revealed.
The North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust’s spending on private ambulance services has more than quadruped between the financial years 2011/12 and 2013/14, figures from Freedom of Information Requests show.
In 2011/12 the amount spent was £639,820, but this rose a staggering 353% to £2,898,275 in 2013/14.
However, other ambulance services maintained lowest levels of spending across the period while one even reduced its reliance on private vehicles.
Over the same period, average ambulance response times – the period between a logged call and the vehicle’s arrival – increased by 51 seconds in the North East.
A spokesperson for the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said:
“While it’s true that average ambulance response times have increased over the last three years, so too has the volume of calls being dealt with by our contact centre.
“Despite this marked increase in activity, the North East Ambulance Service remains one of the best performing in the country for reaching those patients most in need.
“To put it in perspective, our average response time to an emergency in 2011 was 5 minutes 11 seconds. In 2014, it is six minutes. Both of which are well within the national target of eight minutes.
“Organisations such as Red Cross and St John have been used to a greater extent over the last year, again as a consequence of demand.
“There is also a national shortage of paramedics due to the longer three-year-period it now takes to complete the required degree. NEAS hopes to have an extra 140 paramedics by 2016.”
Official NHS figures show that across the country even ambulances for the most serious cases are taking over a minute longer to reach patients than three years ago.
NHS ambulance services across England are now spending close to double the figure on private ambulances when compared to 2012, with parts of the country seeing a 10-fold rise.
Andy Burnham, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary said:
“These figures show just how quickly the NHS is changing under David Cameron. Blue-light ambulance services have traditionally been considered part of the public core of the NHS. It is clear that no part of the NHS is now immune to privatisation.
“When people dial 999, most would expect an NHS ambulance crew to turn up. People have never been asked whether they think blue-light ambulance services should be run by private companies. Before this practice goes any further, there should be a proper public debate about it.
“NHS paramedics have raised concerns over whether private crews have sufficient training, competence and are fully equipped. The Government needs to provide urgent answers to these questions and provide assurances that this practice is not compromising patient safety.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 21 Oct 2014
A new investigation by Unite has found that since 2012 a scandalous £1.5 billion has left the NHS and gone into the pockets of just 15 private companies linked to 24 Tory MPs and Lords who voted for the Health and Social Care Act.
Many of these MPs and Lords have benefited from the combination of their links to private healthcare and the sell-off of the NHS.
Lord Blackwell, Baron Higgins of Worthing, Baroness Cumberledge, Baroness Wheatcroft, Baroness Bottomley, Lord Freeman, Lord Popat, Lord Patten, Lord Glendonbrook, Lord Hunt and Baroness James of Holland Park.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said:
“This is a national scandal and the Tories must be held to account. The government had no mandate to sell-off our NHS but they did just that. You have to ask yourself why?
“Since the vote to sell-off our NHS £12 billion pounds of our services are now in private hands. Key clinical services including cancer care, blood analysis and mental health have been sold off or are up for sale. It is time to scrap the Health and Social Care Act and save our NHS.
“David Cameron promised there would be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS, but he lied. How can we be in a situation where dozens of his MPs, voted for the sell off and had links to private healthcare companies, knowing this would open up new opportunities for the companies that pay them.
“It’s no wonder that calls to protect the NHS from TTIP, a EU-US trade deal that threatens to make the sell-off of the NHS permanent, are being ignored by the Tories.
“The next election will be make or break for our NHS. It is clear what Cameron’s preferred path is – an American style health system.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 04 Oct 2014