Labour has ‘historic opportunity’ to reverse NHS privatisation, says campaigners

Labour called on to pledge to take outsourced NHS services in-house during first term

NHS privatisation

Labour has been told it will have a ‘historic opportunity’ to reverse NHS outsourcing in its first term, if the party wins the general election. 

Assuming Labour takes office on July 5, campaign group We Own It has laid out a plan for Labour not to renew private NHS contracts which are set to expire in the first term of the next government, as analysis has found a huge majority of contracts will need renewing over the next four years.  

Based on an analysis of NHS contracts, data has shown that the next government will inherit 7,452 contracts, worth a total of £29.1bn, between for-profit private companies and local, regional and national NHS entities in England. 

The public ownership campaign group found that 93.7% of these contracts are scheduled to expire before July 2029, worth £19.7bn, leaving the next government with the choice of whether to bring these services back into the NHS.  

Over £1bn is the estimated profits private companies stand to make from all NHS outsourcing contracts the next government will inherit, according to public sector procurement specialists Tussell. This money could help hire over 27,000 NHS nurses, or cover the cost of knee replacement surgeries for over 71,000 NHS patients, We Own It argued.

Professor of Accounting at the University of Edinburgh, Christine Cooper, said: “The evidence suggests that measures to bring back outsourced contracts would enable better public services at lower cost. 

“Whether to outsource to the private sector is no longer a question of ideology, it is a question of economic interest and empirical evidence.”

Among the big contracts that could be brought in-house are, a £128m deal with Serco to provide catering and cleaning services to University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, and a £2bn contract by Danish diagnostics company Compleo Health Limited.  

QI presenter Stephen Fry backed the new research as he blasted, “14 years of the worst outsourcing in the entire history of the NHS”. 

“Politicians have historically presented outsourcing as a neutral choice, but it clearly isn’t,” said Fry. “It’s resulting in billions leaving public services in the form of profits, which could instead be used to provide a better service to everyone. And as we see with water, the railway and the NHS, it has not worked.”

The latest polling by We Own It and Survation found that eight in ten people want the NHS to be fully in public ownership. The group has encouraged Labour to make the same pledge for the NHS that it has for public transport, and commit to take almost all outsourced NHS services in house in their first term.

Lead campaigner at We Own It, Johnbosco Nwogbo, said:  “Only the NHS has A&Es, trains doctors, and treats everyone however complex their case may be. Building up the NHS to treat everyone who needs care is the most efficient and effective reform a Labour government could introduce.

“The first step is to take back NHS outsourcing contracts when they expire. Labour will get a chance to do right by the NHS, and the public is looking to them to protect the NHS.”

(Image credit: Flickr / Diego Sideburns)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward

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