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NHS campaigners: Roles of private firms in healthcare cannot be reduced without scrapping Cameron-era privatisation policies

POTENTIAL reforms to the NHS will not reduce the role of private firms in healthcare unless Cameron-era privatisation policies are scrapped completely, campaigners warned today.

The government is planning to give ministers more control over NHS England with new laws to block the closure of hospitals and centralise decision-making, according to a leaked draft white paper. 

The proposals would reportedly reduce the role of the private sector in the healthcare service, reversing legislation introduced by former PM David Cameron’s administration, which gave clinicians control over budgets and encourages competition with the private sector.

Instead, the new policy would see the NHS and local councils running services and encourage them to work together more effectively. 

But the proposals would not reduce the level of privatisation, which has increased during the pandemic, in the healthcare service, Keep Our NHS Public warned.

The group’s secretary, Dr John Lister, said: “If ministers really wanted to reduce the role of the private sector they could do so now, or have done so at any point since 2013 without new legislation, by scrapping the regulations that were added to Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act.

“There is nothing in the draft which suggests ministers want to bring any existing contracted out services back in-house, even at the end of current contracts.

“Without this, much of the fragmentation and privatisation created by the 2012 Act will remain as an impediment to genuinely integrated care.”

Public Matters co-founder Deborah Harrington said: “The white paper is oddly being trumpeted as a rolling back of privatisation and a return to state provision.

“But to a large extent what’s in the white paper has been already set out since 2014 and is, in fact, already largely in place without legislation. And there’s no rollback of privatisation in sight.”

Ms Harrington warned that increasing government powers “may well mean more of the crony contracts that have become so pervasive during the pandemic.”

NHS chiefs claim the proposals will make it easier for GPs, hospitals and social care services to work together to improve patient care, “without some of the bureaucracy and fragmentation implicit in the 2012 Act.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said it was “rightly considering where changes need to be made to help us build back better” and that the “full details will be set out in due course.”

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