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BMA Conference Monday, 2 July, 2001, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Private sector 'detrimental to NHS'
Emergency contraception
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By BBC News Online's Caroline Ryan in Bournemouth

There is "grave danger" in incorporating the private sector into "every nook and cranny" of the NHS, doctors have warned.

Representatives at the annual British Medical Association conference in Bournemouth backed a motion which criticised the government's "unabated enthusiasm" for private sector involvement, as outlined in this year's Health and Social Care Act.


The doors are now open for private companies to directly provide NHS clinical services

Dr Chaand Nagpaul
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GP from Edgeware in north London, told the conference: "The Labour Party founded the NHS since the market failed to deliver health care for all.

"Ironically, the same party seems intent on destroying it by turning its back on its own principals."

He criticised the expansion of the private finance initiative (PFI) where the private sector builds and maintains hospitals as "scandalous".

He said: "We know that PFI schemes are hugely expensive - with loan charges double that of government borrowing and final costs grossly overshooting original estimates."

'A pernicious scam'

Dr Nagpaul said it was known that the first 15 PFI schemes had resulted in a 30% reduction in hospital beds, and that PFI hospitals had cut staffing budgets by up to 25%.

And he said the public would be paying the price of PFI for the next 30 years.

He quoted a recent Guardian article, which had described PFI as "a pernicious scam, a gift to big business and a disaster to everyone else."

But he also attacked the Health and Social Care Act passed this year.

"The doors are now open for private companies to directly provide NHS clinical services, employ NHS doctors, and can even take over NHS hospitals and GP surgeries and run primary care trusts."

Railtrack, he said, showed how difficult it was to regulate, monitor and make accountable a raft of different companies providing a fragmented service.

One past example of private sector in the NHS was the contracting out of cleaning services.

Dr Nagpaul said eight out of 10 of "Britain's dirtiest hospitals" employed private sector cleaners.

Dr David Baker, a consultant surgeon from Lincoln said if he was a shareholder in a private company, he would expect a 5% to 10% return on his investment.

"If that 5-10% was paid to me as a shareholder as money, a great deal of money, that less would be available for healthcare."

He said short-term use of spare capacity in the private sector was good, but long term links were "bad for patients bad for doctors and bad for the NHS as a whole."

Prior to the conference, Dr Ian Bogle, chairman of the BMA's council, said doctors would only be "open for talks" on private sector involvement in the NHS if it was value for money, beneficial to patient care, and not detrimental to the NHS.

See also:

20 Jun 01 | Health
01 Jun 01 | Vote2001
20 Feb 01 | Health
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