We have heard much this evening from Opposition Front Benchers about celebrating the role of private providers, but the message that goes out from so many of the Back-Bench speeches that we have heard today is one of fear and alarm. It is the single message “public good, private bad”, and it tries to tarnish every private health care provider with that notion.
I want to use my brief remarks this evening to pay tribute to the staff of the newest NHS facility in my area who are working hard to tackle health inequalities and offering a great service to busy people in my constituency, but these hard-working health workers work for a private sector provider. When they are providing their service in an NHS facility, they must feel mystified and rather let down, I suspect, to be constantly criticised by the Labour party.
I agreed with Liz Kendall, who is not in her place, when she said in 2008 that the private sector has much to offer in tackling health inequalities. That is what that NHS facility run by Care UK is doing in my constituency—tackling health inequalities, helping busy, highly mobile young people who cannot register with a GP to get the service that they need, and helping shift workers, migrant workers and those whose working day starts too early for them to get to the doctor during normal hours.
The Junction health centre in Clapham junction, a busy transport hub, opened in March 2010. It was commissioned in 2007-08 and provided by Care UK, a private sector provider but an NHS facility, working to agreed NHS standards. Yes, the Opposition should take pride in having commissioned it. Instead, we see them rowing back from that previous sensible pragmatic position. The facility in my constituency is an excellent example of partnership working, and it is providing care for my constituents. They judge it as an NHS facility. They do not worry about who is providing the care. They worry about the quality of the care and service being provided, and they are voting with their feet.
The target that the facility was set was 2,000 patients by March 2012. There are already well over 3,000. Many of them were not registered with a GP before. The facility is registering homeless patients. How much more universal a service can there be than that? It deals with unregistered walk-in patients—more than 30,000 last year, and in many cases people who would not otherwise have got to see a GP. This is all good. But what do we hear from Labour Members? They talk it down. A previously consensual position on private sector provision is now incredibly polarised around an ideological position that suits this Parliament. Alan Milburn was right when he said in 2009:
“Quality should be the only yardstick, not the type of provider.”
The thousands of people who have attended the Junction health centre in Battersea over the past two years are being well served by hard-working and dedicated health professionals. It might suit the Opposition for narrow party reasons to denigrate the efforts of those health workers who work on behalf of the NHS, but I want to pay tribute to them publicly and say how glad I am that they are providing this much needed and greatly appreciated NHS service, free at the point of delivery, to my constituents. I oppose the motion.