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NHS offering £127m of contracts to private companies despite health secretary pledging: 'No privatisation on my watch'

Labour calls on Matt Hancock to 'be true to his word and block these latest NHS privatisation proposals'

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Saturday 06 April 2019 08:47 BST
'We need to focus on prevention as much as we do on cure' Matt Hancock on the government's NHS long term plan

The NHS is offering more than 20 contracts to private companies, despite health secretary Matt Hancock having insisted there would be "no privatisation on my watch", Labour has said.

The party released data showing 21 NHS contracts worth £127m are currently out to tender - 19 of which have been put out since mid-February.

The figures were revealed by House of Commons Library analysis and include a £91m contract to run an NHS assessment service in the South East, a £16m deal to provide health services in Leicestershire and a £6m tender for a GP surgery in High Wycombe.

Labour accused Mr Hancock of breaking his promise to prevent further privatisation of the NHS.

In February, the health secretary said he wanted to be clearer than his predecessors about the role of private companies in the health system.

He told the House of Commons health and social care committee: "I am going to be much more concrete. There is no privatisation of the NHS on my watch, and the integrated care contracts will go to public sector bodies to deliver the NHS in public hands."

Commenting on the latest figures, Jon Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said the contracts should be kept in public hands.

Speaking on Saturday at the annual general meeting of Health Campaigns Together, which opposes privatisation in the NHS, he is expected to say: “Since the Tories’ wasteful reorganisation of the NHS we’ve seen privatisation after privatisation of NHS services, breaking up integrated care, costing the taxpayer and leaving a poor quality service for patients.

“A few weeks ago the health secretary told MPs there would be no privatisation on his watch and yet we’ve seen cancer PET-CT scanning services in Oxford privatised, and today we’re revealing another £36m worth of contracts put out to tender in the last few weeks.

“Rather than focusing on his own personal manoeuvrings for the Tory leadership, Mr Hancock should be true to his word and now block these latest NHS privatisation proposals.”

Under laws introduced by the Coalition government, NHS trusts have to put to tender any contract worth more than £615,278, resulting in more services being given to private companies.

NHS England has called for the rules to be scrapped in order to "cut delays and costs of the NHS automatically having to go through procurement processes".

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In 2017-18, £8.8bn of the health service budget went to organisations in the independent sector - around 7 per cent of the total budget.

A Department for Health spokesperson said: "We're committed to a world-class NHS that's always free at the point of use now and in the future.

"We want to put patients and the NHS first, so as part of the Long Term Plan we have asked the NHS to develop legislative proposals to remove unnecessary bureaucracy, including changes to the competition and procurement regime.

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