Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Britain's National Health Service privatizing more services

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The government will open up more than £1bn of NHS services to competition from private companies and charities, the health secretary announced on Tuesday, raising fears it will lead to the privatisation of the health service.

In the first wave, beginning in April, eight NHS areas – including musculoskeletal services for back pain, adult hearing services in the community, wheelchair services for children, and primary care psychological therapies for adults – will be open for "competition on quality not price". If successful, the "any qualified provider" policy would from 2013 see non-NHS bodies allowed to deliver more complicated clinical services in maternity and "home chemotherapy".

Andrew Lansley – admitting that the government's initial plans for competition in the NHS were too ambitious, and stung by criticism from Steve Field, the senior doctor called in by David Cameron to review the reforms, that the proposals were "unworkable" – has slowed down the rollout of competition. The health secretary said his plans would now "enable patients to choose [providers] … where this will lead to better care".

Labour questioned the policy, which the shadow health secretary, John Healey, said was "not about giving more control to patients, but setting up a full-scale market".