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NHS Outsourcing and Privatisation

Part of Royal Assent – in the House of Commons at 5:33 pm on 23rd May 2018.

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Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Conservative, Corby 5:33 pm, 23rd May 2018

It is a pleasure to follow Rosie Duffield, but I come at this debate with a real sense of frustration, because the NHS is once again right at the heart of political knockabout, which does absolutely nothing to advance the cause or to pursue better patient care. I am frustrated that the word “privatisation” is so readily bandied around for cynical ends to scare the public and to try to give a misleading picture of what is happening for dogmatic reasons.

Nobody is seeking to privatise the NHS, but it was Labour that introduced competition into the NHS. What does that mean? It means that there is often greater capacity to treat people more quickly based on demand. What could possibly be wrong with buying in 100 hip operations, for example, if people get treated more quickly, if they are getting the best possible care and if they are fit and well sooner? Who could possibly argue with that? Not a single constituent of mine would argue that there is anything wrong with that. Surely they matter most in all of this.

Labour Members hark on about money and not about outcomes—we do not hear anything about outcomes; we hear just about money, often in crude terms. A more effective debate today would have been about moving the agenda forward. We could have talked about things such as prevention. I am all for discussing prevention—at Prime Minister’s questions today, I talked about prevention through the daily mile, which would be a welcome step. In a time of increasing demand, prevention means that we are able to provide better care and that people do not get into desperate situations. It is often more effective for the taxpayer. Prevention means that people will be fitter and healthier for longer, which we should focus on.

The Government have consistently increased health spending year on year since 2010. I would be happy for a Labour Member to intervene and answer this question. Why have they not supported this Government’s increases in health spending? Could they say which services would have less money if we had taken their advice, given that we would be starting from a lower base? Back in 2010, the former shadow Health Secretary, who is now metro Mayor of Manchester, said:

“I am putting the ball right back in…Osborne’s…court. It is irresponsible to increase NHS spending in real terms within the overall financial envelope that he, as chancellor, is setting.”

On the prevalence of private providers in the health service, currently less than 8% of the NHS budget is spent via private providers. The rate at which that has increased since 2010 has been slower than the rate under the Labour party, under whose Administration the NHS spent around 5% on private providers. The motion is a bit churlish. It does not focus on what we should focus on, which is patients, better care and moving the agenda towards the direction of prevention.

It frustrates me enormously that we use terms such as privatisation so readily, while knowing full well that they give a misleading picture to the public. We hear a lot of complaining from Labour Members but, as with police and local government funding, and stamp duty for first-time buyers, when the Government find solutions, Labour Members vote against them. People will make their own minds up.