Lanlsley’s latest sop to private health should come as no surprise

News that private health companies could be paid much more than their public sector NHS competitors under Andrew Lansley’s health reforms should come as no surprise.

By Tamasin Cave of Spinwatch

The news that private health companies could be paid substantially more than their public sector NHS competitors under Andrew Lansley’s health reforms should come as no surprise.

The move has been justified by the claim that there is a current 14 per cent market “distortion” against private sector contractors. Therefore, private companies should get paid 14% more than NHS providers for the same services in order to level the playing field.

Yet, as the Mirror reports today, critics suggest that such rewards are simply “payback” for the hundreds of thousands of pounds that private healthcare companies have poured into Tory party coffers. This is to miss the bigger picture.

Lansley’s Health Bill opens the doors of the NHS to private providers on a scale not seen before. Their routes to influence extend far wider than party funding.

Lansley’s time as shadow health secretary, from 2004 to 2010, saw a marked growth in the private healthcare lobby. Just look at some of the groups, for example, that were set up in this period:

• In 2005, the NHS Partners Network, which represents private companies providing NHS care;

• In 2006, 2020Health, a think tank close to Lansley which advocates more private sector involvement in the NHS; and

• In 2007, Nurses for Reform, the controversial lobby group which pushes for competition in health provision (and which has called the NHS “a Stalinist, nationalised abhorrence”).

Other established think tanks pushing for NHS reform during this period include many with close ties to the Conservative command:

• Reform, which was established by Nick Herbert, now Conservative Home Office Minister;

• Policy Exchange, set up by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude;

• The Centre for Policy Studies, whose Council includes Conservative Minister David Willetts, and whose directors include Tory donor and private health boss John Nash; and

• The Adam Smith Institute, another key part of the infrastructure of the conservative movement in Britain, which lobbies against state funded and provided healthcare.

Lansley’s dismantling of the NHS has been years in the planning as Eamonn Butler, director of the Adam Smith Institute explained to Radio 4’s Today programme recently. Asked if the government was attempting to reform too far, too fast and with a shrinking budget, Butler replied:

“It’s been 20 years in the planning, I think they’ll do it.”

Lansley, rest assured, has not been alone in cooking up these plans over the years.

SpinWatch has made a short film which takes you on a tour of some of the private health companies, lobbying agencies and think tanks that are lobbying for changes to the NHS; watch it here.

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