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Doctors concerned about role of private companies in the NHS, poll shows

23 December 2009

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Eight out of 10 doctors are concerned about private companies profiting from the NHS, according to an online poll commissioned by the British Medical Association (BMA) and carried out by members were asked: “The BMA’s ‘Look after our NHS’ campaign is concerned that some large multinational companies are making profits out of running local clinical services on behalf of the NHS. To what extent do you agree with the campaign’s concerns?”

There were 697 responses, with 80% saying they either strongly agreed (51%) or agreed (29%) with the statement. Just 7% said they either disagreed (4%) or strongly disagreed (3%).

Today (Wednesday 23 December), the BMA has also published a paper listing reports of public money being wasted as a result of market-driven reforms.

Examples include an estimate that as much as £1.54bn might have been overpaid to independent sector treatment centres in England, and figures showing that the NHS in England spent around £350m on private management consultants in the last financial year.

Comments from’s members included: “The process of outsourcing previously public services to private industry often works very badly – witness the railways, London Underground, private prisons. Its application to the NHS is a major threat to the public health.”

Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA, said: “This is more evidence of the medical profession’s concerns about commercial values being imposed on the NHS.

“There are countless examples of taxpayers’ money being wasted because of the drive for services to be provided by profit-making companies rather than traditional NHS providers. When politicians talk about cutting waste they should consider the fact that the bureaucratic costs of a market are hitting the taxpayer hard.

“We’d like to see the NHS in England restored to a publicly provided, publicly funded service, driven by the needs of patients, not shareholders.”