NHS contracts worth £15bn given to private companies since 2015 despite government’s ‘no privatisation’ pledge, analysis reveals

Finding prompts fresh calls for government to end NHS outsourcing, after health secretary promised 'no privatisation on my watch'

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Friday 29 November 2019 23:47 GMT
Jeremy Corbyn says he has documents which 'confirm' under Boris Johnson 'the NHS is on the table and will be up for sale' to the US

Boris Johnson is facing fresh questions over privatisation in the NHS after new research revealed that £15bn of health service contracts have been handed to private companies since 2015.

The analysis found that almost two-thirds of NHS contracts by value have gone to the private sector in the last four years, and that their total yearly value has almost doubled since then.

The finding casts doubts over health secretary Matt Hancock‘s promise that there would be “no privatisation of the NHS on my watch”.

The research was carried out on behalf of the GMB trade union, which represents many NHS workers, by Tussell, a company that provides data on government contracts.

It found that £14.7bn of the £24bn of outsourced contracts awarded since 2015 went to private companies – equivalent to 61 per cent. 30 per cent went to other NHS bodies, while around 7 per cent went to other bodies such as charities and local authorities.

Last year, £3.6bn worth of outsourced NHS contracts were awarded to private companies – 64 per cent of the total and up from £3bn the previous year. The figure has almost doubled from £1.9bn in 2015.

So far in 2019 £3.3bn (63 per cent) of contracts has been given to organisations in the private sector.

The largest number of contracts went to Care UK Clinical Services (17) and Virgin Care (13), while the biggest in terms of value was a £1bn deal handed to Sirona Care & Health, a not-for-profit enterprise, to provide adult community health services in Bristol, north Somerset and south Gloucestershire for the next ten years.

Rehana Azam, GMB’s national secretary, said: “These shocking figures expose the extent to which our NHS is increasingly falling into private hands.

“Outsourcing is bad news for patients and NHS staff. Time and time again, we have seen private providers fail to deliver while our members’ terms and conditions and the NHS national agreement have been undermined.

She added: “NHS services should be provided in the public interest, not for private profit.

“Urgent action is needed to end outsourcing in the NHS, and we urge NHS workers and everyone who relies on the service to make that case to their local candidates during the election.”

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: “Matt Hancock said there would be no privatisation on his watch, yet we’ve seen repeated contracts for NHS services being given to private companies, breaking up integrated care, costing the taxpayer and leaving a poor quality service for patients.

“Labour will bring an end to this profiteering in our NHS and restore our health service to public hands.”

In January, Mr Hancock told MPs on the Commons health committee: “There is no privatisation of the NHS on my watch.”

Responding to the GMB data, Mr Hancock told The Independent: “I love our NHS and am completely committed to ensuring it always remain free at the point of use. The NHS has always used private provision – GPs, opticians and pharmacists all operate privately. The important thing is that patients access the care and treatment they need, free at the point of use.

“Labour’s plans for unlimited immigration and a four day would cripple our NHS. And their plans to remove independent provision in the NHS would increase waiting times. Only Boris Johnson and the Conservatives can get Brexit done and focus on the people’s priorities – schools, hospitals and police."

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