Ontario’s lurch to privatisation – a warning to Labour

At the end of last year Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary Wes Streeting decided to wind up Labour supporters and delight Telegraph readers by proposing increased use of the private sector as a key element in reducing the 7.2m NHS waiting lists.

He may well have thought he was echoing the decision by Tony Blair’s government to use private hospitals and create “independent sector treatment centres” in the 2000s. 

New Labour’s obsession back then was to carve out a share of the substantial increase in NHS funding to expand the puny private healthcare sector and create more of a competitive “market.” However any decision now to use private providers would mean taking even more money (and staff) from a financially hobbled NHS.

Now in Canada Ontario’s hard right provincial government, led by Doug Ford, has controversially opted for an almost identical policy – as part of an agenda to entrench the private sector in the lucrative provision of elective hospital care. 

Ontario, like England, has been plagued by chronic under-funding, desperate shortages of beds and staff, and with huge waiting lists for treatment. On January 16 Ford and Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones announced plans to respond to this – by “significantly” expanding the number and range of publicly-funded operations performed in privately-run for-profit health facilities outside of hospitals. 

The provincial government plans to contract for an extra 14,000 cataract surgeries a year, about 25% of the current wait list, and to invest C$18 million in existing private centres to fund medical imaging and certain surgeries. And new legislation will aim to expand the provision of services and surgeries in private clinics.

Full story in The Lowdown, 6 February 2023

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