NHS (Private Sector)

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 7:17 pm on 16th January 2012.

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Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham Shadow Secretary of State for Health 7:17 pm, 16th January 2012

The Minister of State says that is right, and he is free at any point to get up and challenge what I say or to prove how he can make that statement. I will give him the opportunity to do so soon.

The Prime Minister could not have been clearer—“no privatisation”. Similar statements were made during the pause by the Deputy Prime Minister. On the Marr programme on 8 May, he promised that safeguards would be brought forward in the health Bill. He said:

“What you will see in this legislation are clear guarantees that you are not going to have back-door privatisation of the NHS.”

He followed that up on 14 June with this promise:

“Patients, doctors and nurses have spoken. We have listened. Now we are improving our plans for the NHS. Yes to patient choice. No to privatisation. Yes to giving nurses, hospital doctors and family doctors more say in your care. No to the free market dogma that can fragment the NHS.”

Those statements from the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister were significant for two reasons. First, they revealed an understanding at the top of Government about how, more than anything else, fears about privatisation and the market in the NHS were driving professional disquiet about the Health and Social Care Bill—a Bill that was sold as putting doctors in charge but that had a hidden agenda of breaking up the structures of the national planned health system to allow a free market in health. Secondly, they implied that major changes to address those concerns would be made to the Bill and that there would be a return to the existing policy of the managed use of the private sector within a planned and publicly accountable health system.

Let me be clear. As our motion states, we believe that there is a role for the private sector in helping the NHS to deliver the best possible services to NHS patients, and that was the policy we pursued in government. Without the contribution of private providers, we would never have delivered NHS waiting lists and times at historically low levels, but let us put this in its proper context. Our policy was to use the private sector at the margins to support the public NHS. So, in 2009-10, 2.14% of all operations carried out in the NHS were carried out in the independent sector and spend in the private sector accounted for 7.4% of the total NHS budget. I would defend those figures, because that helped us to deliver the best health care to the people of this country.

Furthermore, we supported a system allowing foundation trusts to generate income at the margins of their activity from treating private patients but with a clearly defined cap to protect the interests of NHS patients at all times.