GPs urged to back campaign for transparency in NHS private providers

GPs should lobby MPs to make private providers of NHS services subject to the Freedom of Information Act, according to the BMA deputy chairman.

Parliament: GPs urged to lobby MPs over Freedom of Information rules
Parliament: GPs urged to lobby MPs over Freedom of Information rules

BMA deputy chairman Dr Kailash Chand said GPs should put pressure on their MPs to sign an early day motion (EDM) put forward by Labour MP and health select committee member Grahame Morris.

The motion, called Private Healthcare Companies and Freedom of Information, has been signed by 94 MPs. Seven Liberal Democrats, 80 Labour MPs and representatives of several smaller parties have signed. No Conservative MPs have signed to date.

Health regulator Monitor is looking at freedom of information duties as part of its Fair Playing Field Review into whether there is an equal footing for all providers to bid for NHS services. The review is due to report back to health secretary Jeremy Hunt next month.

Dr Chand said private companies should not be scared of having to be as open as public sector providers. ‘It is not fair at all,’ he said of the current rules.

‘My view is let’s take politics out of this. There should be equality. Private providers shouldn’t be scared. GPs should ask their MPs to sign the EDM.

‘With any qualified provider (AQP) anybody can do anything. We are always talking about transparency and accountability.’

The EDM says NHS reforms have resulted in ‘£7bn worth of new contracts being made available to the private health sector'. It claims that current legislation 'favours the private health sector over the NHS, by allowing private companies to hide behind commercial confidentiality and which compromises the best practice aspirations of the public sector'.

EDMs are formal motions submitted by MPs to be debated in the House of Commons but few reach that stage.

A DH spokeswoman said: ‘The Freedom of Information Act covers public authorities, including NHS commissioning organisations. NHS commissioners therefore have a duty to respond to any Freedom of Information requests made regarding services that they have commissioned. All providers of NHS services - be they public or independent sector - are required to co-operate and assist commissioners in complying with their freedom of information duties.’

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