HALT NHS OUTSOURCING! – urges the Unison trade union

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THE NHS is wasting precious time and money introducing reforms that are failing to deliver better services to patients or value for money, says Unison, the UK’s largest public sector union.

The union is calling on the Government to ‘think again’ about its NHS outsourcing and privatisation agenda, in the light of a damning new report by the Office for Public Management (OPM) – Driven by Dogma.

Earlier this year the Healthcare Commission’s staff survey found that less than half of health staff believed that the care of patients was their Trust’s top priority. Unison called on Trusts to refocus on putting patients before paperwork.

Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary, said: ‘The failure to regulate the finance sector has dragged the economy into recession.  We don’t want so-called “light touch” regulation to damage patient care and the NHS. It is a slippery slope when health reforms are brought in without the necessary checks and balances of effective scrutiny and accountability.

‘At a time when finances are increasingly tight, the NHS cannot afford to be throwing precious money away to the private sector and wasting time and resources on the complexity of the commissioning process.

‘Patients want more involvement in decision-making and staff want to spend more time on providing excellent patient care rather than tendering for contracts. Unfortunately this report shows that the various reforms to outsource or privatise parts of the NHS are working against these goals.

The Unison statement continues: ‘Driven by Dogma points to failures of outsourcing in the NHS to deliver success in terms of value for money, patient involvement and working conditions.

‘Similar to issues with independent sector treatment centres, this study noted decisions by commissioners to outsource the “easier” parts of the health service to the private sector. The report says: “It is no surprise they have [outsourced] the easy stuff first”. The more complex, high-profile or litigious elements tend to be less attractive to the private sector: the report closes with a comment from one commissioner that “it will be a brave commissioner who outsources neonatal care”.’

Unison concluded: ‘There are alternatives: Scotland has recently announced that it will no longer permit any contract cleaning and Wales has done away with the purchaser-provider split in favour of a more integrated system.’