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Half of £2bn NHS cash injection spent on outsourced private care providers labelled a ‘disgrace’

The scale of NHS spending on care provided by private companies has been labelled a “disgrace” after it was revealed half of £2bn allocated to the the NHS before the 2015 election was used to treat patients outside the health service.

Last year £901 million of the cash earmarked for front-line services by George Osborne was used to buy care from private and other non-NHS providers, according to the Financial Times.

Research by the Health Foundation showed £800 million was spent on purchasing the same kind of care from NHS trusts.

The think tank said the figures showed NHS providers have not had the capacity to deal with rising demand – with campaigners saying outsourcing was a “neither fit nor acceptable” way to plug funding gaps.

“The process of privatising the NHS has already begun,” wrote campaign group NHS Million on Twitter in response to the news.

In his 2014 Autumn Statement, Mr Osborne said the money for NHS England would “support the day-to-day work of our incredible nurses, doctors and other NHS staff”, describing it as a “down-payment on the NHS’s own plan”.

Alan Taman, speaking for campaign groups Keep Our NHS Public and Doctors for the NHS, said there had always been some level of outsourcing by the health service “where it was the best use of public money to do so,” such as for cataract operations.

“But what is neither fit nor acceptable is the systematic use of outsourcing as a way of addressing chronic shortfalls in service triggered by years of under-funding,” he said.

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    The elderly

    “We acknowledge that there are pressures on the health service, there are always extra pressures on the NHS in the winter, but we have the added pressures of the ageing population and the growing complex needs of the population,” Ms May told Parliament.

    Waits of over 12 hours in AE among elderly people have more than doubled in two years, according to the latest figures from NHS Digital. The RCP said Government investment was needed to match the demand placed on the health service by the ageing population with the resources to meet it.

    “Pressures in social care are pushing more people into our hospitals and trapping them there for longer,” said the letter.

    “Without urgent investment, the NHS will fail to live up to this responsibility this winter.”

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    Patients going to AE instead of seeing their GPs

    The Health Secretary has called for a “honest discussion with the public about the purpose of AE departments”, saying that around a third of AE patients were in hospital unnecessarily.

    Mr Hunt told Radio 4’s Today programme the NHS now had more doctors, nurses and funding than ever, but explained what he called “very serious problems at some hospitals” by suggesting pressures were increasing in part because people are going to AEs when they should not.
    He urged patients to visit their GP for non-emergency illnesses, outlined plans to release time for family doctors to support urgent care work, and said the NHS will soon be able to deliver seven-day access to a GP from 8am to 8pm.

    But doctors struggling amid a GP recruitment crisis said Mr Hunt’s plans were unrealistic and demanded the Government commit to investing in all areas of the overstretched health service.

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    Simon Stevens, head of NHS England

    Reports that “key members” of Ms May’s team used internal meetings to accuse Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, of being unenthusiastic and unresponsive have been rejected by Downing Street.

    Mr Stevens has allegedly rejected claims made by Ms May that the NHS had been given more funding than required, according to The Times.

    The newspaper reported the Prime Minister’s staff have been irritated at Mr Stevens’ “political” interventions, including urging ministers to pay for social care by cutting pensioner benefits.
    Addressing the claims about Downing Street staff, a Number 10 source said: “We don’t recognise any of this”, while a separate source described the claims as “nonsense”.

    Mr Stevens will appear before the House of Commons public accounts committee this afternoon to respond to questions of whether the NHS is sufficiently funded amid calls of a crisis from doctors and leading medical bodies.

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    Previous health policy, not funding

    In an interview with Sky News’s Sophy Ridge, Ms May acknowledged the NHS faced pressures but said it was a problem that had been “ducked by government over the years”.

    She refuted the claim that hospitals were tackling a “humanitarian crisis” and said health funding was at record levels.
    “We asked the NHS a while back to set out what it needed over the next five years in terms of its plan for the future and the funding that it would need,” said the Prime Minister.

    “They did that, we gave them that funding, in fact we gave them more funding than they required… Funding is now at record levels for the NHS, more money has been going in.”

    But doctors accused Ms May of being “in denial” about how the lack of additional funding provided for health and social care were behind a spiralling crisis in NHS hospitals.

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    Target to treat all AE patients within four hours

    Mr Hunt was accused on Monday of watering down the flagship target to treat all AE patients within four hours.

    The Health Secretary told MPs the promise – introduced by Tony Blair’s government in 2000 – should only be for “those who actually need it”.

    Amid jeers in the Commons, Mr Hunt said only four other countries pledged to treat all patients within a similar timeframe and all had “less stringent” rules.

    But Ms May has now said the Government will stand by the four-hour target for AE, which says 95 per cent of patients must be dealt with within that time frame.

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    No one

    Mr Hunt was accused of “hiding” from the public eye following news of the Red Cross’s comments and didn’t make an official statement for two days.

    He was also filmed refusing to answer questions from journalists who pursued him down the street yesterday to ask whether he planned to scrap the four-hour AE waiting time target.
    Sky News reporter Beth Rigby pressed the Health Secretary on his position on the matter, saying “the public will want to know, Mr Hunt”.

    “Sorry Beth, I’ve answered questions about this already,” replied Mr Hunt.

    “But you didn’t answer questions on this. You said it was over-interpreted in the House of Commons and you didn’t want to water it down. Is that what you’re saying?” said Ms Rigby.

    “It’s very difficult, because how are we going to explain to the public what your intention is, when you change your position and then won’t answer the question, Mr Hunt”. But the Health Secretary maintained his silence until he reached his car and got in.

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Mr Taman said health bosses could be resorting to private suppliers because of staff shortages and legislation designed to encourage competition between health sector providers.

“Desperate NHS managers [are] farming out the services they can no longer provide fully – to firms whose principal motivation is profit, not the best use of public money to give the fairest health system, and who cannot possibly be as fully coordinated as the NHS was set up to be.

“Example? Something goes wrong with your private procedure. What do they do? Send you straight back to the NHS to clear up the mess… What a complete travesty.”

The Health Foundation report also found that £1 in every £8 of local commissioner’s budgets in England is now spent on care provided by non-NHS organisations.

Claims that the NHS turned to private providers as it could not cope with overwhelming demand itself comes as head of NHS England Simon Stevens prepares to deliver a progress report on his five-year reform plans, reported the Financial Times.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “The public will rightly be alarmed that £900 million was spent treating patients in the private sector when our frontline services remain in desperate need of increased funding.”

“Labour always warned that the Tory NHS reorganisation that no one wanted would mean taxpayers money flowing to the private sector and away from the NHS frontline. It’s a disgrace and Labour will reverse this Tory privatisation agenda.”

Anita Charlesworth, director of research and economics at the Health Foundation, said rising demand for emergency care meant “NHS providers haven’t had the capacity to deliver planned care and patients had to be diverted outside the NHS.

“NHS hospitals were left squeezed by sharply rising drug and staff costs with little additional funding.The result was big deficits that had to be covered by raids on investment budgets.

“The health service needs to plan better for emergency demand, fund emergency care fairly and make sure it gets the best possible price for care provided outside the NHS.”

The Department of Health said the report simply showed the NHS was judging how best to deliver care and and spends less than 10 per cent of its budget on independent providers.

A spokesman said: “This report simply shows the NHS is making clinical judgments about delivering high-quality care for patients.

“The truth is that for many years the independent sector has made a contribution to helping the NHS meet demand, now amounting to less than eight pence in every pound the NHS spends.”

Theresa May told Parliament last month the NHS “is not for sale and it never will be” in response to concerns the health service could form part of a post-Brexit trade deal between America and Britain.

Labour had warned a rushed trade deal between the UK and US could become “a Trojan horse for NHS privatisation”, with insurers and private health companies given the opportunity to provide NHS services.

  • More about:
  • NHS
  • privatisation
  • George Osborne
  • Health
  • Autumn Statement
  • Health Foundation

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Article source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nhs-cash-injection-2-billion-spent-outsourcing-private-care-providers-disgrace-healthcare-service-a7651531.html

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