20 January 2014 | Will Green
Some 70 per cent of contracts to run NHS services have gone to the private sector since new rules were adopted, a pressure group has claimed.
The NHS Support Federation said in the nine months after April 2013, when new competition regulations came into force, 400 clinical contracts worth more than £5 billion were advertised and 70 per cent of the contracts awarded went to commercial companies.
The group said in its sample, based on tenders advertised in the Official Journal of the EU and on the NHS website Supply2Health, 39 contracts went to private firms, 15 to the NHS, two to charities and one was shared between the public and private sectors.
However, the Department of Health (DH) said the figures were based on a “tiny sample” and £5 billion represented a fraction of the overall NHS budget of more than £100 billion.
In a report the NHS Support Federation said: “If this trend continues NHS providers will face a huge challenge to their income from commercial competition.
“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.”
The report said the most common services put out to tender were diagnostics, mental health, GP services and out-of-hours care, and home care.
A DH spokesman said: "These figures are highly selective and misleading. The percentage is based on a tiny sample of contracts. The reality is that private sector providers carry out around 6 per cent of NHS work.
"The NHS will remain free to patients at the point of use. The key thing is that no matter who provides them, NHS services are commissioned in the best interests of patients.”