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Private sector increases pressure over primary care provision



By Ian Quinn

Business leaders have stepped up pressure on whichever party forms the next government to open the door to further involvement of the private sector in primary care.

A detailed document put out by business leaders – and backed by private providers including Boots, Atos Origin and Bupa – says expanding the private sector’s involvement could save the NHS £15bn by 2015 and help bail the Department of Health out of its financial crisis.

A report by the CBI claims Darzi centres, walk-in centres and in-store practices already run by the private sector have provided ‘quicker and cheaper-to-run services’ than the NHS.

John Cridland, CBI deputy director-general, said: ‘By re-engineering health services to give people more choice about how and where they are treated, we could diagnose problems earlier and reduce the number of costly hospital admissions.’

The report also claims vascular checks would be better done by high-street chemists such as Boots than by GPs.

But BMA leaders have renewed calls for the Government to block further private involvement and appealed to health secretary Andy Burnham to back up his recent pledge that the NHS is the Government’s ‘preferred provider’ with official guidance.

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said: ‘There seems an idea that if we leave it to the private sector, they’ll sort the problems out. We support Andy Burnham’s statement on preferred status for NHS providers but need to see it translated into action at a local level.’

Dr Hamish Meldrum has renewed his call to block further private involvement in the NHS