In Depth

The pros and cons of privatising the NHS

Questions have been raised about sustainability of Britain's health service

It may be a politically touchy topic, but would privatisation of the NHS offer any benefits? Here are some of the pros and cons:

CONS

Eroding NHS principles:

Critics fear that an increased use of private companies will erode the key foundations on which the NHS was established in 1948, in particular the principle of free health services at the point of delivery.

Fragmented services:

Dozens of medical practitioners have warned that an increase in privatisation could result in the fragmentation of health services to the detriment of patients.

Less transparency:

Accountability suffers when private involvement increases, claims Unite. Commercial confidentiality makes it impossible to scrutinise public spending, while negotiating complicated contracts creates another layer of bureaucracy, says the union.

Postcode lottery:

Critics fear that with different organisations offering different services, people will receive varying standards of care across the country. A Labour inquiry, led by MP Debbie Abrahams, found that "where there is competition, privatisation or marketisation in a health system, health equity worsens".

Prioritising profit:

Private companies, run for shareholders, will inevitably put profit margins before patients, say critics. They claim this bias is a recipe for overcharging, over-treatment and corner-cutting on safety, with private companies "cherry picking" the most profitable treatments. Abrahams' inquiry said there was also "some evidence" that privatisation impedes quality, including increasing hospitalisation rates and mortality.

Click through to read what the pros are if the NHS was privatised.

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