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Independents' Day

Public turns against NHS use of private providers

The public is turning against the NHS’s use of private providers to deliver care, even when the care remains free at the point of delivery, a recent poll has found.  

Ipsos Mori asked 1,009 people if they agreed with the statement: ‘As long as health services are free of charge, it doesn’t matter to me whether they are provided by the NHS or a private company.’

It found that 47% of people disagreed with this statement, an increase of 11 percentage points on the number of people who disagreed when asked in February 2011.

However, it also found that people are less likely to be against external providers who are charity or voluntary organisations.

Anna Quigley, the head of health research at Ipsos Mori said that private providers still have some way to go before they are a fully accepted part of the UK’s health system on par with state-run services.

She said: ‘The Government are keen to ensure the NHS is able to meet the demands placed on it, but they must be careful that in reforming the NHS and introducing new providers into the mix, they take account of public opinion and don’t leave the public behind.’

Readers' comments (5)

  • The public need be be supported to have a much more informed and rational debate on this. Most, for example, have no idea that GP practices are 'private' businesses in contract with the NHS. And GPs themselves will need bigger supportive structures around primary care provision very soon if they are not to implode with the pressures on them. These too are likely to be some form of 'private' GP Provider organisation. We need to move away from the soundbite public and private and make choices between good and bad quality services where neither 'public' nor 'private' have a monopoly.

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  • The public don't like private companies providing health services at NHS prices because they can only make their profits by cutting costs. If the companies think that they can cut costs through innovation but get it wrong then they could go bust. The public don't like their providers going bust either!

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  • Disagree with Mr Yates patronising tone. The 'public' - at least those members of the public I speak to - are perfectly well aware of the issues. They simply do not want a privatised system. As for this old chestnut about GPs being 'private' providers in all but name, not so. They occupy a special place in the tax system. Try telling HMRC they are private and you may well receive a rather quizzical look. Clare Gerada has some trenchant views on the matter. Some sort of search engine may be useful to you here.

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  • Patients with multiple medical problems feel happier when their care is co-ordinated by one provider, the NHS, as their care would be much more fragmented under separate providers.

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  • Commercial corporations, professional partnerships, small family firms, single-handed self-employed professionals, co-operatives, social enterprises, charities, families and self-care: all these are 'private' providers. The practical differences between them are not trivial. To say 'general practices are all private anyway' obfuscates the differences. But then, so do most of the debates about private providers.

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