Private NHS provision has 'decreased under Labour'

NHS provision by the private sector has fallen under Labour, according to health secretary Alan Johnson.

'The element of the private sector has gone down from 1.4 per cent to 1.2 per cent,' Mr Johnson told doctors at the last of a series of lectures at BMA House, in London last week.

The health secretary said he hoped to end the 'depressing' argument about the use of the private sector in the NHS.

Mr Johnson added that GP-led health centres 'would never have happened' if the DoH had not ordered PCTs to set them up. The centres were imposed on PCTs to improve capacity, he said.

The comments came in response to a question from GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey, read out by BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum.

He asked why his PCT in Leeds had to build a new centre alongside a walk-in centre, two minor injury units and an urgent care centre, open all night and at the weekend.

'This was Bevan's vision,' Mr Johnson replied. 'The leaflet that went through everyone's door in 1948 said there will be a health centre in every location.

'I think if we hadn't dictated this from the centre, and provided the funding, I doubt this would have ever happened.'

Mr Johnson repeated his reassurance that most of the contracts to run the centres would be won by GPs.

'We'll look back at this and wonder what we were worried about,' he added, although Dr Vautrey said after the event 'it didn't answer the question'.

Attacking Conservative shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley and his proposal to make the NHS independent of government, Mr Johnson said he was 'ducking out' of responsibility for the health service.

Mr Johnson also said that 'some absolute tosh' had been written about the NHS IT programme, which he said was delayed but not over budget.

Responding to concerns about the safety of patient records, Mr Johnson admitted he was unaware that there was a clause in the Justice Bill allowing patient records to be given out to other departments.

He said the records could be used to contact people with certain illnesses for medical research.

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