Speech: Responding to GP-led clinic scrutiny report

I presented this speech in response to a scrutiny panel report I contributed to being presented to full council 28th January 2010. Nobody answered my question at the end of the speech:

I would like to thank Cllr Denise Cobb who was chair of HOSC at the time for agreeing to create this panel after several months of questions on these matters by myself and other members.

I also thank the panel Chair Cllr Alford for his very even handed and co-operative working, as well as Cllr Allen, with whom it always a pleasure to serve with. My thanks to our officer Giles Rossington for his excellent support. I do commend this report to members.

This report is very timely given the continued pressure to further privatise parts of the NHS and package public services off to private businesses.

The panel’s concerns over the tender process favouring larger corporations should trigger alarm bells for all those worried about the future of the NHS. Similarly how such changes are consulted upon with the public was cause for concern with the panel and continue to be a public issue of importance.

These private contracts are riven with problems. The President of the British Orthopaedic Association recently wrote to The Times highlighting grave concerns over their quality control and service levels. A study of one private treatment centre found two third of operations showed poor technique and that after 3 years 18% needed revision operations compared to a 0.9% NHS-wide rate.

Cataract operations at a private treatment centre in Oxfordshire have cost up to 600% over the odds and performed only 93 of 572 contracted procedures for half a year. Meanwhile eye operations in a private contract treatment centre in Portsmouth have cost seven times more than they would on the NHS.

Health service experts the King’s Fund argue these contracts are a drain on Primary Care Trust finances. At a 2008 HOSC meeting a clinician from Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals Trust admitted that the private orthopaedic procedures alone were costing them £2-3 million a year.

The chosen contractor for Brighton’s clinic, Care UK, do have serious ongoing questions over their ability to provide consistent high quality care in our area as well as the rest of the country. In spite… or perhaps because of this… their annual healthcare profit has been in double digit growth for years, including 44% growth in profit for 2009.

Clearly the Conservative Party want more of this kind of privatisation when their 2010 health manifesto states that they aim:

“To give patients even more choice, we will open up the NHS to include new independent and voluntary sector providers…”

We recently learnt that the chairman of Care UK and his wife are giving tens of thousands to fund the Conservative shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley’s office.

So, the question I must ask the Conservative group is…. Is this the kind of privatising corporate ‘greed is good’ politics we can expect if David Cameron wins the general election?

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