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Leading GPs oppose Labour calls to halt NHS privatisation

A group of GPs have written to the Daily Mail dismissing Labour accusations of a ‘privatisation agenda’ and opposing pledges to roll back the involvement of the private sector.

The doctors, including LMC leaders and NHS alliance chair Dr Michael Dixon, have said that it is time to ‘move on’ from the old public versus private debate, and urge all parties to support clinically-led commissioning, rather than further confusing the role.

It follows a speech given by shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, who said privatisation in the NHS had jumped 1.3% since the Coalition came to power.

Mr Burnham also proposed an anti-privatisation bill at the end of June and said David Cameron was ‘the prime minister who put the NHS up for sale without first seeking the permission of the British public.’

But the letter from 11 prominent GPs, including Wirral LMC chair Dr Ivan Camphor and Dr Fiona Butler, chair of West London CCG, states: ‘It is absolutely untrue to suggest there is any kind of “privatisation” agenda within CCGs or that we are forced to contract out for every service. The amount of NHS care commissioned from the private sector is today less than 6%, having grown slowly but steadily for ten years.’

It adds: ‘As both the previous Labour government and the current coalition have made clear, we must move on from the old debates about “public versus private” and provider whatever is best for patients.’

‘This week’s announcement will cause confusion for CCGs at a time when politicians should be supporting and trusting the hard work of local GP-led commissioning groups.’

Addressing members of the Unison trade union in Manchester on Tuesday, Mr Burnham called for a freeze on procurement of healthcare from non-NHS providers until the election.

He said: ‘The prime minister was not up front about these plans at the last election and he now needs to be reminded that he has never been given the permission of the public to put the NHS up for sale in this way. Further privatisation of services should not proceed until the public has had a proper say.’