24 February 2013
GREEN Party conference has today expressed strong opposition to plans to force the opening of all NHS services to competition, noting that the action by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt contradicted assurances given by the Coalition government during the passing of the Health and Social Care Act last year.
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said: “We believe in a publicly owned and publicly run NHS, and there’s strong evidence that this is also what the public supports. Opposition to forced privatisation was so strong that last year the then Health Secretary promised that NHS commissioning bodies would not be forced to put all services out to competition.”
A widely publicised letter from then Health Secretary Andrew Lansley sent a letter to prospective commissioning groups on 16th February 2012 said: “I know many of you may have read that you will be forced to fragment services, or to put services out to tender. This is absolutely not the case. It is a fundamental principle of the Bill that you as commissioners, not the Secretary of State and not regulators, should decide when and how competition should be used to serve your patients’ interests. The healthcare regulator, Monitor, would not have the power to force you to put services out to competition.”
Natalie said: “Secondary legislation introduced by the Health Secretary on February 13 this year, which could become law just 40 days after that without further debate, would introduce competitive markets to become compulsory except in rare exceptional circumstances – effectively ensuring that private health companies will have access to every area of NHS services.
“This is despite international evidence that competition harms the outcomes for patients in health services, and the fact that the stability and financial base of traditional NHS services will be put at risk by private providers “cheerypicking” lucrative patients.
“The government must be held to account – and this secondary legislation cannot be sneaked through. Parliament must debate it – and must defeat it.”