Patients have scored a significant victory in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough against the possible takeover of elderly care by private healthcare companies.
Unite, the country’s largest union, said the increasing culture of secrecy engulfing the accelerating privatisation of the NHS had received a big set-back.
The campaign for greater openness by clinical commissioning groups to stop powerful private healthcare companies ‘cherry picking’ the most profitable NHS services in England needed to be stepped up.
Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, was commenting on media reports that Cambridge and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had agreed to publish commercially sensitive documents in relation to the contract, worth up to £1 billion, for integrated older people’s services.
This follows a legal challenge from Stop the NHS Sell Off in Cambridgeshire. The contract has attracted interest from private healthcare companies which are interested, says Unite, in making profits from the privatisation of elderly care.
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “The government has adopted a culture of secrecy, as well as legal and parliamentary ruses, to hide from the public the extent that the NHS is being put up for sale to private, profit-hungry healthcare companies.
“Openness and transparency should be the gold standard of how CCGs behave when it comes to considering contracts which are leading to the rapid piecemeal privatisation of the NHS. Pro-NHS campaigners in Cambridgeshire should be congratulated for their strong stand.
“The public has every right to know in great detail what is happening to the NHS in their local community. This culture of encroaching secrecy needs to be eradicated.”
Unite is campaigning against health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s attempt to insert clause 118 into the Care bill which would make it easier to close or privatise any hospital in England without proper public consultation.
Hunt wants these extra powers, despite the decision of the High Court, subsequently upheld by the Court of Appeal, that he did not have the authority to implement cuts to the emergency and maternity units at Lewisham hospital in south east London.
The clause is due to be debated on 28 and 30 January by the bill committee and in a letter to the committee, Rachael Maskell described clause 118 as “a dangerous move which will put thousands of lives at risk by removing local clinical decision making”.
Unite is also urging MPs to support Easington MP Grahame Morris’ Freedom of Information (Private Healthcare Companies) bill which is due to receive its second reading on 28 February.
This bill aims to extend Freedom of Information legislation to encompass public healthcare services delivered by private companies and charities, and open up this information for public scrutiny.
Rachael Maskell said: “If you join up the dots, you can see how ministers are creating a culture that gives private healthcare companies a distinctive advantage when they bid for NHS work. This must be fought tooth and nail.”
Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are the NHS organisations set up by the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to organise the delivery of NHS services in England.
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1
Notes to editors:
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.