THE TORIES are in talks with private healthcare companies to deal with the backlog of thousands of NHS patients by farming them out, at great expense, making huge profits for the privateers.
A wave of new deals between the NHS and private hospital firms will cost the taxpayer more than £2bn, with the contracts allowing almost £200m in profits for the health providers.
The move is part of Tory plans to avoid any further lockdowns, whether they are due to an increase in Covid cases or other pressures on the NHS.
The deal is to utilise 7,000 extra beds in private hospitals.
The private companies are only interested in profitable operations – so-called ‘elective surgery’.
Private hospital groups such as Circle Health, Ramsay Health Care and Spire Healthcare are among those discussing new and expanded deals with the Department for Health and Social Care.
Private health companies have been involved in the pandemic since it struck the UK last March, with more than £2bn already spent on deals to provide non-urgent care, as well as creating extra capacity for Covid patients.
However, the new deals are expected to ramp up the involvement of independent firms in elective procedures such as hip replacement operations, plastic surgery, and many other other non-urgent procedures.
Dr John Puntis, co-chair of campaign group Keep Our NHS Public, warned that the addition of the private hospital beds will still not recover the drop in available NHS bed numbers since the pandemic struck.
‘Due to the efforts to prevent cross infection, hospitals have 12 per cent less beds, and are already operating at 95 per cent capacity,’ said Dr Puntis.
‘With a huge rise in non-Covid respiratory illnesses such as flu and pneumonia this winter, alongside NHS staff sickness levels, things are sure to get very tough after the summer.’
BMA member Anna Athow commented: ‘From the moment the pandemic started in March 2020, NHS England (NHSE) block purchased from private hospitals to the tune of around £400m a month, it is estimated.
‘NHSE have constantly resisted repeated calls by NHS providers and staff to increase the provision of beds in the NHS, as the wards and Intensive Care Units filled up with Covid patients.
‘Now, having allowed the build-up of colossal waiting lists for all types of care, NHSE are rushing to hand over a further £2bn contract to get the private sector to do NHS work.
‘This pandemic has been used by NHSE and the government to accelerate the policies of the NHS Long Term Plan and ram through the top-down restructuring of the Health and Care Bill, which will put the private sector in the driving seat of NHS health and social care.
‘NHS staff and the whole trade union movement must mobilise to demand a proper pay rise for NHS staff, a massive expansion of NHS beds and staff, and to get rid of the Tory government.’