The myriad different bodies that make up the NHS in England and their opaqueness, especially in terms of contracts to provide services, makes mapping the true extent of the privatisation of public healthcare difficult.
The available evidence bears out Owen Smith’s claim that NHS privatisation is increasing, but it is less of the “explosion” that the Labour leadership hopeful warns about and more of a gradual but inexorable, rise in the proportion of the NHS budget going to firms such as Virgin Care, Care UK and Bupa. It is also noteworthy that the private sector has been making ever bigger inroads into several key areas of NHS care, notably general practice, community services and mental health care.
Department of Health (DH) figures show that the amount of its funding that has gone to “independent sector providers” more than doubled from £4.1bn in 2009-10, Labour’s last year in power, to £8.7bn in 2015-16.
Slow-release privatisation has also seen the percentage of the DH budget finding its way into private hands rising from 4% in 2009-10 to 8% in the last financial year.
A few privatisation contracts involve huge sums. Several GP-led NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in Staffordshire caused controversy in 2014-15 when they sought to hand 10-year contracts for cancer and end-of-life care worth £1.2bn to a private provider, though those plans have been held up after NHS England became involved…read more