Stop NHS privatisation until after the election, says shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham

Private companies, including Virgin Care and Care UK, received more than £10bn of public money last year

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Indy Politics

All new contracts between hospitals and the private sector should be put on hold until after next year’s general election, Labour will argue today.

Andy Burnham, the shadow Health Secretary, will claim the Coalition has no mandate to press ahead with “far-reaching and forced privatisation” of services, including cancer treatment.

Private companies, including Virgin Care and Care UK, received more than £10bn of public money last year.

Labour argues the size of the payments shows the Coalition has put the NHS “up for sale” and claims the number of contracts going out to tender is accelerating ahead of the election.

It points to two 10-year contracts worth a total of £1.2bn for cancer treatment in Staffordshire and an £800m five-year contract for elderly care in Cambridge.

Mr Burnham will accuse David Cameron of reneging on a promise not to privatise more health services and claim the “people not profits” principle of the NHS is under threat.

“On his watch, NHS privatisation is being forced through at pace and scale,” Mr Burnham will say in a speech in Manchester.

“When did the British public ever give their consent for this? It is indefensible for the character of the country’s most valued institution to be changed in this way without the public being given a say.”

Mr Burnham is writing to NHS England to call for the award of dozens of contracts to be deferred unless delay risked patient safety or continuity of services.

An incoming Labour government would order NHS managers to review all health care contracts in the pipeline. They would be instructed to award the contracts to the NHS apart from instances where the public sector could not provide services.

Mr Burnham’s intervention is the latest in a summer campaign by Labour to highlight the choice between the “threat” of a Conservative government and the Labour alternative.

A Tory spokesman said: “This speech is all about politics: it’s not a serious plan for the future of the NHS. Use of the private sector by the NHS doubled in the last four years of Labour, a far bigger increase than under this Government.”