Nigel Edwards, NHS Confederation director of policy, said: ‘With the £20bn of savings in the NHS required over the next five years, the focus must continue on reducing costs while also driving up quality. Given the scale of this challenge, to rule out any use of the independent or third sector would remove a very important source of innovation and change that can help to deliver improvements.
‘It is clear from surveys and opinion polls that the public are far more interested in the quality of care they receive within the NHS than whether it is from an existing or independent sector provider.'
Susan Anderson, the CBI's director for public services and skills, said: ‘Patients should come before politics. We shouldn't deny high-quality healthcare to communities just because it is offered by private sector providers as part of the NHS.'
James Gubb, director of the health unit at independent think tank Civitas, said: ‘The BMA's stance goes to the heart of the debate in the NHS at present: whether the financial challenges facing the NHS meant taxpayers' money should be spent supporting NHS providers, or spent on the provider - NHS or non-NHS - that can offer the best deal on quality and cost.
‘I suspect most of the public would side with the latter. Affinity lies with the values underlying the NHS: universal, comprehensive healthcare, free-at-the-point-of-use, rather than who provides the service.'