In Brief

Is NHS privatisation about to be reined in?

Health bosses hope Boris Johnson will include proposals in Queen's Speech

Health service bosses hope that privatisation of NHS care will be significantly curbed under confidential plans Downing Street is expected to include in the next Queen’s Speech.

According to an NHS England document that summarises 22 key changes it believes will be included in a reform bill due to be published next month, Boris Johnson would be forced to scrap key elements of the 2012 NHS shake-up in England led by health secretary at the time, Andrew Lansley.

For instance, Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act led to NHS clinical commissioning groups tendering thousands of mainly small-value contracts, 40% of which were won by private firms. This would be repealed, under the confidential proposals seen by The Guardian.

Dr Tony O’Sullivan, the co-chair of Keep Our NHS Public and a retired paediatrician, supports the repeal of Section 75. “Some of the most controversial clauses have led to the carve-up of the NHS into contracts and a competitive market.”

Privatisation of the NHS has proved a highly charged topic. England’s local NHS bodies would no longer have to put out to tender any contract worth at least £615,278, a process that led to a surge in outsourcing of services and a record £9.2bn of the NHS’s budget being handed to private firms, says The Guardian.

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The plans more generally aim to limit the role of competition between different parts of the NHS, which experts say has proved a costly distraction from caring for patients.

In a “twin-pronged” bid to restrict future privatisation, Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act would be scrapped and the commissioning of healthcare services would be removed from the remit of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

It is hoped that the proposals will be backed by the government because NHS England was asked to draw them up by Theresa May when she was prime minister.

Sara Gorton, the head of health at the union Unison, said the changes are “long overdue”.

She added: “These proposals would protect the NHS from the worst excesses of privatisation and end the situation where different parts of the health service have had to compete against each other.”

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