"We will never privatise the NHS."
Comforting words from the Health Secretary, but the approval for the reforms by the private sector and some of their recent involvement suggests otherwise. Our recent report highlights this - and the questionable practices of some of the key players. If the upcoming bill is passed, private companies will be able to enter virtually any area of the NHS, from running hospitals and managing community services to commissioning care using the NHS budget. Far more private patients will be treated in the NHS, creating a service for the few rather than for everyone.
The values of the NHS won't be governed by providing the best health care to everyone. Instead, it will be governed by business and profit. With no limit on private sector involvement and insufficient controls put in place, these worries are legitimate and will continue to trouble patients who seek assurances in a service they trust and rely on. The introduction of competition and the private sector is widely seen as the real theme of the bill and yet this aspect is an experiment, backed by virtually no evidence that it will work. The scandal over private sector breast implant and the shambles of Southern Cross nursing homes shows us the risk of handing over control of the NHS to those motivated by profit, rather than caring.