Leaked government plans to privatise some GP practices will “horrify” the public, according to a trade union leader.
A recent Channel 4 News investigation revealed that the Tory-Lib Dem coalition’s Health and Social Care Bill affords few protections for patients.
The Bill, if passed, will see around £80bn of funding for the NHS put under the control of GP ‘consortia’, which will buy in their own services.
However, Channel 4 News pointed out that many GPs have shares in companies which sell services to the NHS for profit, creating the risk that patients are sent to companies in which their doctor has a financial stake.
Currently, primary care trusts decide how and where budgets get spent.
Unite leader Len McLuskey said the plan will “horrify” the public, adding that healthcare provision should not be subjected to “casino capitalism”.
A leaked document obtained by Channel 4 News also shows how one private company plans to work with groups of GPs under the government plans. It describes how both the company, in this case Integrated Health Partners (IHP), and GPs could make a profit. If 5% is saved from patient budgets, this could be shared as profit between GPs and the company.
IHP is involved with a number of GP consortia in Surrey and aims to list on the stock market in three to five years, Channel 4 reported.
The head of IHP, Dr Oliver Bernath, did not deny the potential for profits but told Channel 4 there would be a balance, with points for outcomes, meaning savings would not be made at the expense of providing quality patient care.
He told The Guardian newspaper: “The whole NHS is £80bn in spending and if GPs can take underspends then we can get a large audience fairly quickly. Investors will find it very attractive fairly quickly.”
Mr McCluskey said: “The fact that family doctors could be set for windfall profits under the government’s plans, which will see them controlling £80bn of the NHS budget, will horrify and alarm the public.
“The NHS, which is funded by the taxpayer, should not become part of the casino capitalism that Health Secretary Andrew Lansley seems intent on introducing into healthcare.
“People’s health and well being should not be equated to the daily fluctuations of the FT share index.”
Copyright © Press Association 2011
“Although an abhorrent practice it has already been taking place within the PCT(s) where Clinical Directors set up business which were supplying services to the GPs. It seems like everyone turns a blind eye event if conflict of interest stares you in the eye! Those who dare to complain are totally ignored. So let us be prepared for more of it” – Name and address withheld