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Independents' Day

Hewitt opens door to private firms

The Government has announced an open-door policy for private firms wanting to take on NHS services, including GP surgeries.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has abandoned the 15 per cent limit for private sector involvement, saying she will not 'try and set arbitrary targets

or limits on one provider or


Decisions would be made on who could provide the best services for patients, she said in a speech this week to the Institute for Public Policy Research.

The 15 per cent target was set by Mrs Hewitt's predecessor John Reid.

Mr James Johnson, BMA chairman, said he was worried about the increasing scale of private involvement in the NHS.

He said: 'If you turn the NHS into a market there will be winners and losers. I do not believe commercial organisations who are interested above all in profit will want to take on complex

patient cases.'

Dr Russell Thorpe, a GP in St Anne's, Lancashire said increasing use of private providers would 'destabilise' the health service.

He said: 'What happens if it doesn't work out? The companies will just walk away because it's a business decision.'

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