Labour has accused the Government of allowing the private sector to “cherry-pick” successful NHS services after a survey revealed NHS contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds had gone to private companies since the Coalition's health reforms.
The NHS Support Federation, which campaigns against the marketisation of healthcare in the UK, claimed that, from a sample of 57 NHS contracts awarded between April and December 2013, more than two thirds had gone to the private sector – at a total value of £450m.
However, the Government said that the figures were “selective and misleading” and NHS leaders said that the independent sector provided only six per cent of NHS clinical care – a figure that had increased by one per cent since 2010.
The figures were based on contract award notices appearing on a European Union procurement database. Services which passed into private hands included pharmacy services, mental health care, ambulance services and paediatrics.
Andy Burnham, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said that the figures proved that the privatisation of the NHS was “proceeding at an alarming pace and scale”.
“While the future demands greater integration of care, David Cameron has set the NHS on the opposite path – a fast-track to fragmentation and privatisation,” he said.
Under the Government’s health reforms, any qualified provider can bid for NHS services that are put out to tender by commissioners. By law, commissioners can avoid the tendering process but have to meet strict guidelines to prove that alternatives have been considered and that existing NHS services are best for patients.
However, the Conservatives said that Labour were guilty of “hypocrisy” over private sector involvement in the health service.
“The reality is that when they left office in 2010, private sector providers carried out five per cent of NHS work, a figure that has only increased by one per cent since then,” a spokesperson said.