Health Secretary Matt Hancock is proceeding “full steam ahead with NHS privatisation”, according to the Labour party as it reveals a total of 21 contracts worth £127m are currently out to tender. The deals include a £91m contract to run an NHS 111/Clinical Assessment Service in the South East. Some £36m of new NHS contracts have been put out to tender in the last six weeks alone, according to new House of Commons Library analysis undertaken for Labour.
In February, shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth demanded Mr Hancock block private companies from securing 26 NHS contracts worth over £128m out to tender at the time after the latter promised
“there would be no privatisation of the NHS under my watch.”
Mr Ashworth will today accuse the Health Secretary of breaking his promise and demand that he prioritises ending privatisation of the NHS by keeping these contracts in public hands, instead of
“working on his own Tory leadership bid”.
The 2012 Health and Social Care Act obliges NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England to tender out any contract worth over £615,000. This has led to a huge increase in the number of NHS contracts awarded to private firms such as Virgin Care. In 2017/18, some £8.8bn of the health service budget went to independent sector providers a 50 per cent increase compared with 2009/10.
In January, Mr Hancock said he supported the idea behind Access mydentist an “affordable” alternative to NHS dental care which is being rolled out at a number of practices. Labour said it was the latest in a “string of endorsements of private healthcare” by the Health Secretary.
In November 2018, Labour’s former shadow Health Minister Justin Madders wrote to the Prime Minister expressing concerns that Mr Hancock may have breached the Ministerial Code by endorsing Babylon, a private healthcare company, in a paid-for-newspaper supplement.
Babylon’s GP at Hand, of which Mr Hancock is a patient, has been roundly criticised by doctors’ groups “cherry picking” fit, young and health patients and financially destabilising traditional GP practice.
Earlier this week NHS England threatened to sue Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust for libel, for raising concerns that privatising a key element of cancer treatment would endanger patients’ health. Labour has pledged to reverse privatisation of the NHS and return the health service into expert public control, as well as repealing the Health and Social Care Act which puts profits before patients.
Speaking at the Health Campaigns Together Annual General Meeting on Saturday, Mr Ashworth will say: A few weeks ago the Health Secretary told MPs there would be no privatisation on his watch and yet we’ve seen cancer PET-CT scanning services in Oxford privatised, and today we’re revealing another £36m worth of contracts put out to tender in the last few weeks.
“Labour will bring an end to this profiteering in our NHS and restore our health service to public hands. Tory privatisation will be killed stone dead under a Labour government and we’ll bring forward the necessary legislation to reverse the Health and Social Care Act and reinstate a publicly provided NHS in our first Queen’s Speech.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said:
“We’re committed to a world-class NHS that’s always free at the point of use now and in the future. We want to put patients and the NHS first, so as part of the Long Term Plan we have asked the NHS to develop legislative proposals to remove unnecessary bureaucracy, including changes to the competition and procurement regime.”