BMA demands tougher checks on private provision of NHS services

Two thirds of doctors are uncomfortable with private providers delivering NHS services, according to a BMA report that demands tougher checks on care outsourced by the health service.

BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter
BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter

The BMA report, Privatisation and independent sector provision of NHS healthcare, calls for research into how the growing role of private providers in the NHS is affecting patients and doctors.

Private providers delivering NHS care should face the same level of CQC regulation as NHS providers, and a requirement to deliver training should be written into their contracts, the BMA report says.

Providers should no longer be able to register with the CQC unless they open up to the same freedom of information requirements as NHS providers, the union’s report warns, and the Health and Social Care Information Centre should publish performance data on both NHS and non-NHS providers.

NHS privatisation

NHS spending on private provision of services has increased every year since 2009/10, the BMA report shows, rising from £4.55bn in that year to £6.91bn in 2014/15. The independent sector now receives 6.3% of the annual NHS budget.

The number of private providers delivering GP services has also steadily increased over this period, the report shows. In 2010, 262 practices operated under APMS contracts, compared with 290 in 2015.

Doctors’ biggest concerns regarding growing private provision were the destabilisation and fragmentation of NHS services, the BMA report found. More than 80% of respondents to a BMA survey ranked these in their top two concerns.

NHS funding

Dr Mark Porter, BMA chairman, called for more investigation into the efficiency of the service given by private providers: 'At a time when the NHS is facing huge financial pressure, more attention needs to be paid to private sector provision of NHS services to assess whether it provides value for money, high-quality, safe care to patients, as well as the impact it has on other NHS services.

'The NHS exists to provide the highest quality care for its patients. Anyone who doesn’t accept that, or gets in the way of achieving it, should not be allowed near it. That’s true for anyone who works in the health service, and it’s also true for any individual or company providing services within it.'

A DH spokeswoman said: 'Use of the private sector amounts to around six pence in every pound the NHS spends, an increase of just one penny in the pound since 2010. Charities, independent organisations and social enterprises, such as Macmillan Nurses play an important role in the NHS, as they have done for many years and are subject to the same strict CQC inspection regime as the NHS - poor performing providers not meeting our high standards will be held to account.'

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