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Understanding the "private sector" and the role it plays within the NHS.

As we look to move to the polls tomorrow, the election messages have included key policies and discussion around the use of private businesses to deliver healthcare across the NHS.

We have subtly over the last few months asked some of the questions and have discussed some of the issues relating to the private sector (in the NHS this is known as the "Independent Sector") operating in the NHS. We also have a webpage on how we work with the NHS.

The NHS is made up of many private enterprises. At the absolute beginning of the NHS when the idea was formed it was created using independent providers (GPs) to provide healthcare for all. This very principle still runs true to this day that the most efficient way that the NHS operates is through this complex fabric. GPs remain as private businesses, Pharmacies operate as private businesses, Dentists etc which we think are all very much the core of the NHS.

Over the last decade there has been diversification of this across other business areas such as community, mental health and acute healthcare provision where we saw the emergence of providers such as Nuffield, Spire, HMT and Virgin enter into the arena. Virgin, probably being the most prominent in operationally delivering community based NHS contracts.

There are two principles that the NHS must always deliver on:

  • Care which is free at the point of need

  • A healthcare system that continually evolves and provides value for money.

The two principles should never be compromised otherwise this seriously effects the existence of the NHS and what it stands for.

The NHS is made up of many providers, this unique richness of organisational breadth allows new treatments, new drugs, new technology to be adopted to benefit everyone. Without the pharma companies and Research and Development that they do with Universities we wouldn’t have cures for the Flu never mind looking at drugs to prevent or treat cancer. Without the Independent Sector we wouldn’t have the ability to deliver against the 18 week target, the 4 hour A&E target as many providers of Urgent Care, Walk In, Community based outpatient and diagnostic activity are independent.

The reality is the NHS has private providers who provide efficient and effective healthcare to communities throughout the UK. The outcomes from private providers are comparatively higher than NHS providers and the number of providers with Good and Outstanding rating with the CQC is comparatively higher than the NHS.

David Hare, CEO of Independent Healthcare Providers Network states:

“Rather than improve patients’ access to care, removing the independent sector from NHS service delivery would dramatically lengthen waiting times and add millions to NHS waiting lists. For planned care, where over four million patients are waiting for treatment today, the NHS would need to build the equivalent of 42 extra hospitals just to stand still, a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.

“Whoever forms the next Government must put aside the misplaced politics of NHS ‘privatisation’ and focus on what really matters to patients and taxpayers which is an efficient and highly performing healthcare service free at the point of use.”

So when we go to the polls tomorrow, think about what the NHS system is.


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