Hospital Dr News

Private firms dominate new NHS contracts

Almost 70% of contracts for NHS services in England between April-December 2013 were won by private firms, a campaign group claims.

NHS reforms mean ‘qualified providers’ can bid to provide clinical services, such as scan provision and out-of-hours care.

The NHS Support Federation, which opposes a competitive market in the NHS, said that, of 57 contracts awarded, 39 went to private firms.

Fifteen of the 57 contracts went to the NHS, two went to charities and one was shared between the NHS and a non-NHS supplier.

In excess of £5 billion worth of contracts to run or manage clinically related NHS services have been advertised in the first 9 months since the competition regulations (section 75) were passed by Parliament.

The types of care most involved in tendering and the Any Qualified Provider scheme are diagnostics (63 contracts), mental health (24 contracts), GP services and Out-of-Hours (23), home care (21), community health (17) and pharmacy (15).

Many aspects of emergency or urgent healthcare care are now part of competitive tenders, including blue light and other ambulance services, the running of urgent care centres and hospital A&E, 111 services and GP Out-of-Hours care.

The use of the market and the commercial sector is extending beyond the provision of care to include management, planning and commissioning functions, the NHS Support Federation says.

A spokesperson for the NHS Support Federation said: “We believe that the evidence in this report already points to a significant transfer of care out of the hands of the NHS towards a range of commercially driven providers.

“It also shows how commercial influence is also spreading to the management of NHS facilities and to the decisions around how the NHS budget is spent.”

A recent award gave the country’s biggest management consultancies and accountancy firms a share in a £200m pot to offer ‘failing’ NHS hospitals strategic direction and temporary management.

There are currently two further contracts in the pipeline to run NHS hospitals, the George Eliot and the Weston, in Weston-super-Mare – in addition to the contract to manage the Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire operated by Circle since 2011.

Contracts to provide community healthcare typically cover the widest range of care – often catering for the complex health needs of older patients. A number of areas have chosen to bundle these services into a single super tender.  One such contract to provide community health services in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough is the most wide ranging yet and is worth (£800m-£1bn+).

So far private companies Serco (Suffolk £140m) and Virgin (Devon £130m and Surrey £500m) are the most successful in winning similar contracts.

David Hare, chief executive of NHS Partners Network, an association representing independent sector providers of NHS services, said: “The figures quoted by the NHS Support Federation are based on a very small sample of contracts and are not representative of the wider NHS. Overall the independent sector currently provides around 6% of NHS clinical care and this figures has only increased by 1% since 2010.

“Open competition for NHS contracts allows commissioners to choose the best available provider for services regardless of whether public, private or voluntary sector. But this is not privatisation of the NHS. Services delivered by independent sector providers under the NHS banner have always been free at the point of delivery and we know that the vast majority of people do not mind who delivers their care as long it is free.”

Bookmark and Share

One Response to “Private firms dominate new NHS contracts”

  1. Malcolm Morrison says:

    We all know that the NHS suffers for a ‘top heavy management’ structure; but will the ‘loss’ of a service to a private provider result in a reduction of ‘management’? If not, one should ‘add’ this cost to the cost of the tender!

Post a Comment

Enter this security code

Submit Comment for Moderation