Private sector NHS growth 'not the choice of GPs', says Labour

GP commissioners were sidelined as more than £250m of NHS contracts were put out to tender, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham told the Labour party conference today.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham: government plans are 'forced privatisation from the top'

Mr Burnham used his speech at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester today to reveal there are 398 community NHS services in England worth over a quarter of a billion pounds currently out to tender.

This comes after GP revealed last month that the DH plans to step up its any qualified provider policy this autumn, by putting services across 39 treatment areas out to tender.

Mr Burnham also pledged that a Labour government would save the NHS 'without another structural re-organisation'.

He said: 'I’ve never had any objection to involving doctors in commissioning. It’s the creation of a full-blown market I can’t accept. So I don’t need new organisations. I will simply ask those I inherit to work differently. Not hospital against hospital or doctor against doctor. But working together, putting patients before profits. For that to happen, I must repeal Cameron’s market and restore the legal basis of a national, democratically-accountable, collaborative health service.'

Mr Burnham told the conference that there are currently ‘at least 37 private bidders - and yes, friends of Dave amongst the winners’.

He said: ‘Not the choice of GPs, who we were told would be in control. But a forced privatisation ordered from the top. And a secret privatisation - details hidden under "commercial confidentiality" – but exposed today in Labour’s NHS Check.

'From this week, hospitals can earn up to half their income from treating private patients. Already, plans emerging for a massive expansion in private work, meaning longer waits for NHS patients.’

The shadow health secretary also hinted that Labour will change secondary care funding to ensure that hospitals can are financially rewarded for keeping people out of hospitals.

He said: ‘Our hospitals are simply not geared to meet people’s social or mental care needs. They can take too much of a production-line approach, seeing the isolated problem - the stroke, the broken hip – but not the whole person behind it.

‘And the sadness is they are paid by how many older people they admit, not by how many they keep out. If we don’t change that, we won’t deliver the care people need in an era when there’s less money around. It’s not about new money. We can get better results for people if we think of one budget, one system caring for the whole person - with councils and the NHS working closely together. All options must be considered – including full integration of health and social care.’

Mr Burnham said that shadow public health minister Diane Abbott will lead on their public health policy which aims to give councils more power. He said: ‘It means councils developing a more ambitious vision for local people’s health: matching housing with health and care need; getting people active, less dependent on care services, by linking health with leisure and libraries; prioritising cycling and walking.

‘If we are prepared to accept changes to our hospitals, more care could be provided in the home for free for those with the greatest needs and for those reaching the end of their lives.’

King’s Fund chief executive Chris Ham called Labour’s plans ‘sketchy’. He said: ‘While the long-term vision is ambitious, the details of Labour’s plans are sketchy. A number of questions will need to be answered in the policy review announced today. For example, it is not clear how local authorities could take on the role of commissioning healthcare without further structural upheaval. And despite the shadow chancellor’s pledge earlier in the week, it is not clear how Labour would ensure adequate funding for social care.’

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