News | Published April 02 2019

Organisations respond to Labour pledge to "ban" privatising services

The Labour party have announced plans to heavily restrict the outsourcing of services dealing with vulnerable people. We spoke to a variety of organisations within the healthcare sector to assess their response.

Under a new Labour pledge, public services dealing with people deemed "at risk" would be brought back "in-house" and away from private contractors.

People "at risk" are defined by their dependence on the state. This would include prisoners, detained migrants, benefits claimants and hospital patients.

This is in line with the Labour party's sustained criticism of the outsourcing of government contracts and a wider party strategy to cut private firms from the delivery of public services.

The proposed ban would affect central and local government contracts in sectors such as health, prisons and social care. The plan does however propose numerous exceptions to the ban.

Services deemed to be already performing well under private contractors would be exempt, as would contracts worth below a certain value. State bodies would also be able to make the case for being too under resourced to carry out particular services in the immediate term.

The restrictions would be implemented as current contracts draw to a close or are terminated.

The pledge comes in the wake of several high-profile government service contracts facing cross-party scrutiny.

This includes the privatisation of cancer scanning services in Oxford, a decision criticised by both government and opposition MPs.

In a letter to NHS England, Conservative MP Victoria Prentis detailed that she was “extremely concerned” about the potential impacts on patient care.

Labour MP Andrew Glynne has described the pledge as bringing “democracy and accountability back to government.”

The pledge is expected to face resistance from some local council’s already under difficult financial pressures.

To gauge the response from those that would be affected by such legislation, we spoke to a businesses and individuals from the healthcare sector.

Jane Board, Director of Lymphoedema Specialist Services, an independent provider and holder of a NHS contract for management of a long-term illness, told The Review that while in an ideal world all services would be run by the NHS, the CQC provide a trusted and reliable source of regulation for private contractors.

She told us that: "It is a concern to read of private contractors who fail to provide a safe standard of healthcare to people deemed “at risk”.

"Ideally, all health care would be provided by the NHS enabling consistent and high quality treatment for patients, including those “at risk”.

"However, the ongoing shortage of clinical staff nationwide ensures the NHS's continued reliance on private contractors, thereby reducing the prospect of bringing services “in-house”. Brexit uncertainty surrounding staff recruitment and retainment compounds the issue further.

"Bringing democracy and accountability back to government is provided through The Care Quality Commission, the independent regulator of all services providing healthcare for the NHS.

"The CQC is accountable to the public, parliament and Secretary of State for Health, with powers of enforcement to close or impose special measures on services that fail to deliver the standard of high quality care.

"A CQC licence is therefore an essential requirement for private contractors delivering a healthcare service for the NHS.

"Onsite inspections by the CQC of NHS and private contractors should enable an equitable examination to determine which services provide safe, effective and compassionate care for people “at risk” - and which do not.

"The growing national awareness of the enforcement powers of the CQC and the public's confidence to report inadequate treatment is likely to enhance consistent care for patients deemed “at risk” from private contractors."

The Cube Disability, a representative of The Parliamentary Review, stressed that whatever the outcome, patient care must come first. Seeing both sides, they told us that whether private or public, it is the standard of care, as well as the freedom to choose, that is most crucial.

Owner and care manager Jelena Milic told the Review that: "It is important that all people , including disabled people have options , be it public or private, to manage their own lives." 

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Authored by

Daisy Carter
April 02 2019

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