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Britons overwhelmingly want NHS privatisation to end after coronavirus crisis, survey finds

Exclusive: Coronavirus crisis has revived debate over making health service fully public-sector operated, says think tank

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Sunday 05 July 2020 19:29 BST
Hancock dismisses report of £10bn spending pledge for NHS

Voters overwhelmingly want to see an end to privatisation in the health service after the coronavirus crisis has ended, according to a new survey.

The Survation poll for We Own It, a think tank that campaigns for public ownership, found that 76 per cent of the public want to see the NHS “reinstated as a fully public service” against just 15 per cent who wanted to see continued involvement of private companies.

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown a spotlight on the delivery of health services by private companies.

The government has come under fire for handing contracts to run coronavirus testing services to commercial companies rather than involving local public health experts, and Boots was forced to back away from a plan to use volunteers to staff centres, following an investigation by The Independent.

A leaked email revealed Rupert Soames, chief executive of outsourcing giant Serco, said he hoped involvement in the test and trace operation would “cement the position of the private sector” in the NHS supply chain.

Released as the NHS celebrates its 72nd birthday, the poll – seen exclusively by The Independent – found that 78 per cent of those questioned think it should receive more public funding to deliver services, compared to just 11 per cent who thought profit-making companies should be given more public money to run health services.

Asked on what basis the health service should be operated, an overwhelming 83 per cent said it should be nationalised and run in the public sector, compared to just 9 per cent who thought it would be better to privatise it and have it operated by commercial companies.

Pascale Robinson, We Own It campaigns officer, said: “The NHS has never been so vital as during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s saved thousands of lives, and kept millions of us safe.

“Sadly, it went into this crisis with one hand tied behind its back. After decades of cuts, privatisation and outsourcing, responding to health emergencies has become harder and harder.

“Huge chunks of our health service has been handed over to private companies, and it’s been a disaster both before and during the crisis.

“This poll is crystal clear – the public want an end to the calamity of privatisation, and our NHS to be reinstated as a fully public service. It’s time for the government to listen.”

The poll comes at a time when government use of the private sector is on the increase, with estimates of as much as 26 per cent of the NHS budget being spent on contracts with the independent sector.

Survation polled 2,003 adults living in the UK on 24 and 25 June.

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