New figures reveal a sharp spike in the number of NHS patients undergoing surgery in private hospitals.
The numbers were obtained by the Guardian newspaper and show an increase of 186 percent over the last nine years, from 214,967 people in England in 2009-10 to 613,833 last year.
The news comes amid fresh fears that the health service is being slowly privatised by the Conservative government.
Healthcare privatisation has emerged as one of the main battlegrounds in the upcoming election. Key figures on the Labour benches have alleged that a Tory victory will see further incursions by private sector companies into the publicly-funded service. They also claim the NHS will become a bargaining chip in post-Brexit trade negotiations with the White House and warn that drugs bills could balloon if US drugs manufacturers are given unfettered access to UK markets.
Shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said: “A decade of cutting over 15,000 beds and failures to recruit staff under the Tories is forcing more and more patients out of the public NHS into poor quality private hospitals. The failing health secretary has allowed waiting lists to balloon with patients left in pain and distress. A bonanza for the private sector is the consequence, exposing Mr Hancock’s famous claim of ‘no privatisation on his watch’ as utterly hollow.”
A spokesperson for the Conservatives said: “In the face of rising demand, the NHS is treating more people than ever. There are 2.4m more operations happening every year, compared to 2010. We have committed to the largest financial settlement in NHS history, backing it with an extra £33.9bn in cash a year by 2023/24.”
Union figures have reacted to the news with disdain. A spokesperson for The Workers Union was particularly strident in its criticism, pointing out that this is the latest round of fighting in a battle that goes back decades: “It sounds terrible, but these revelations are hardly new, are they? The NHS has been kicked around by both political parties for years while patients and thousands of hard-working staff suffer. The bottom line is that this is an organisation that’s run for people, not to line the pockets of private healthcare providers. And outsourcing work is just one of many, many issues – not least the inability to recruit and retain those people who consider looking after patients a vocation, rather than a job.”
The Workers Union is utterly committed to protecting the NHS. We’re issuing a “hands off” message to everyone who has designs on selling out our national health service. You can help us by becoming a member and lending your own voice to the fight. Now is the time to act to save one of the greatest achievements in British social history.
The Workers Union – supporting the NHS now and in the future