Worries on Private Health Role in U.K., 'Flawed U.S. System' Cited

The Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament are seen from behind Lambeth Bridge in London on February 26, 2010. Garry Knight/Flickr

Liberal Democrat peer Shirley Williams raised concerns over the future of the U.K. government’s health reforms as secretive e-mails revealed plans to allow overseas companies to take over operations at 20 hospitals currently run by the National Health Service.

“I still have huge concerns about the bill. The battle is far from over,” Williams a member of the upper house of parliament, wrote in Sunday’s Observer.

The main concern surrounds legal doubt as to whether the secretary of state will be required to deliver “a comprehensive health service for the people of England, free at the point of need,” the Observer reported.

The emails were made public due to a freedom of information request.

Prime Minister David Cameron has previously indicated that “there will be no privatization” as the U.K seeks reforms to its health system.  Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has expressed similar views.

Other e-mails show officials from private sector firm McKinsey in active discussions about bringing foreign firms to take over up to 20 hospitals, in return for contracts worth hundreds of millions on pounds.

McKinsey is acting as a broker between the department and international firms who are bidding to run the NHS, the Observer says.

The NHS would “keep real estate and pensions” while McKinsey would have a “free hand on staff management.”

“Any decisions to involve organizations, such as the independent sector or foundation trusts, in running the management of NHS hospitals would be led by the NHS locally and in all cases NHS staff and assets would remain wholly owned by the NHS,” a spokesman for the Department said.

“The move to any qualified provider is clearly about creating a market for private companies. Any MP who votes for the health and social care bill is voting for the end of the NHS,” a spokesman for the public service union Unison said, according to the report.

Williams said she was “not against a private element in the NHS, which may bring innovatory ideas and good practice, provided it is within the framework of a public service,” she wrote.

“But why have they tried to get away from the NHS  as a public service, among the most efficient, least expensive and the fairest anywhere in the world? Why have they been bewitched by a flawed US system that is unable to provide a universal service and is very expensive indeed?”

“The remarkable vision of the 1945 Atlee government, of a public service free at the point of need for all the people of England, should not be allowed to die.”

 

 

 

 

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