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New evidence that private firms are taking over more and more of our NHS

From Matt Dykes at Touchstone:

The British Medical Journal today published new evidence to show how privatisation of NHS services is continuing to intensify under this government.

Using Freedom of Information requests to Clinical Commissioning Groups, they found that of 3,494 contracts awarded by 182 CCGs in England between April 2013 and August 2014, 33% went to the private sector.

David Cameron dismisses talk of NHS privatisation as “nonsense”. But it is clear from this report from the BMJ and other work carried out by NHS Support Federation, that the competition requirements brought in by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act have escalated outsourcing of NHS services.

It is not only the scale of privatisation that is concerning but also the scope. While it ‘s true to say that previous governments introduced greater private involvement in the NHS, we are beginning to see a step change in the way the private sector is taking over services.

Increasingly, CCGs are coming together to commission services on a ‘prime provider’ model, where a range or ‘pathway’ of services are tendered out to a single large provider who is then responsible for sub-contracting services and managing the supply chain around that service area.

This effectively privatises the commissioning process itself.

We know that the £280m contract for the Improving Lives programme for older people in Staffordshire will soon be awarded to either Virgin or Optum, owned by United Health. And we know that those companies are also among those in the frame for the £1.2bn programme for cancer and end of life care in that same part of the country.

Now Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees CCGs in Yorkshire have combined to offer up a £285m prime provider contract for community beds, specialist community nursing, community therapy, podiatry and early supported discharge services.

The government claimed that their massive top down reorganisation of the NHS would be decision making over service provision in the hands of patients and family doctors. Increasingly, we’re seeing them being passed over as prime providers take over whole parts of local health economies.

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