NEW research produced by the NHS Support Federation shows a dramatic rise in the contracts won by private firms to deliver NHS care.
Over the period April 2014/15, companies have won awards totalling over £3.5bn, which is five times the previous year.
The figures also show that the value of NHS contracts awarded through open competition has multiplied since the government’s NHS changes.
£9.6bn of NHS clinical awards were made through tendering over the last year (April 2014/15), rising from £800m (April 2013/14) and £1.5bn in the year before the NHS competition changes came into effect (April 2012/13).
The use of the market has also escalated since the last election. In April 2010/11 the value of clinical awards made through open tenders was far lower at £291m in April 2010/11.
The study found that several companies have amassed large portfolios of NHS contracts. Virgin Care is one of the most successful, having won NHS contracts worth over £1bn since 2010.
Care UK, which runs 111 and GP services, had an income of £370m from NHS contracts (year ending September 2014). Overall, profit-making providers have won 65% of clinical awards over the last two years and have an average win rate of 65% of NHS clinical awards since 2010.
By analysing the contract notices posted by all NHS commissioners (CCGs/trusts/NHS centrally/government) on official tendering websites, the Federation’s researchers have recorded the details of the NHS clinical services that have been put up for tender over the period April 2010 to April 2015.
Since the NHS changes came into effect in April 2013, £21bn worth of opportunities have been advertised to plan and deliver NHS care, over 1,000 contracts, covering every aspect of the ‘patient journey’.
Many more ‘super’ contracts of over £100 million are being awarded through the tendering process, 13 this year, more than the previous 4 years added together.
This year a £780m award was shared by eleven private firms to provide diagnostics and surgery. NHS England commissioned a contract worth £5bn over 4 years to provide CCGs with help planning and procuring NHS care.
Six of the 13 £100 million plus awards were won by the private sector and five by consortia containing both non-NHS and NHS organisations; only two £100 million plus contracts were won by NHS organisations working alone.
Paul Evans, director of the NHS Support Federation, commented: ‘This evidence will help give voters a clear view of how the NHS has been opened up to the market and profit-making providers. Outsourcing has expanded rapidly and will continue without any real limit unless there is a change in policy.
‘It is undeniable that privatisation is happening within the NHS. The evidence shows that outsourcing has been supercharged by the government’s NHS changes. Stick to the same path and our healthcare will become dominated by business and our NHS will be far less likely to survive.’