Keep NHS contracts ‘in public hands’, Labour urges

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been urged to stop private companies from securing NHS contracts.

A total of 26 health service contracts worth more than £128 million are currently out to tender, according to research commissioned by the Labour Party, including one worth more than £90 million.

Shadow health and social care secretary Jonathan Ashworth will call for a guarantee that these remain “in public hands” during a House of Commons debate on Tuesday.

Mr Ashworth wants NHS contracts to remain in ‘public hands’ (Stefan Rousseau/ PA)

Mr Ashworth will also hit out at Mr Hancock’s “privatisation credentials”, after he spoke in support of Babylon’s GP at Hand and visited a private Access MyDentist practice in Suffolk.

Current legislation require NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England to tender out any contract worth more than £615,278.

The NHS long-term plan suggested there should be changes to the rules outlined in the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which Labour said have led to an increase in the number of contracts awarded to private companies such as Virgin Care.

“This Health Secretary’s privatisation credentials become clearer by the day, whether it’s promoting GP at Hand to endorsing private dentistry to now allowing millions of pounds worth of health services contracts to be privatised,” Mr Ashworth is expected to say.

“But when even NHS bosses are calling for the very worst aspects, the so-called section 75 provisions, of the Tory Health and Social Care Act to be binned surely Mr Hancock should step in, block these tenders and instead guarantee the contracts remains in public hands.

“Otherwise his promises to the Health Select Committee will be exposed as entirely hollow and it will be clear the Tory NHS privatisation agenda continues to run rampant.”

The contracts currently out to tender include one worth £90,552,000 to run an NHS 111 clinical assessment centre for Kent, Medway and Sussex CCGs.

The research for Labour, carried out by the House of Commons Library, was correct as of February 15.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said:  “We’re committed to providing world-class NHS services that are always free at the point of use and are investing £20.5 billion a year extra by 2023/24 to guarantee the future of our health service through the NHS Long Term Plan.

“These decisions are clinically-led by NHS experts and based on what’s best for patients.”