“Private health companies provide better or more efficient patient care than the NHS”

Until now, the NHS has been remarkably efficient in providing health care. A report on the health care systems of 11 countries by the Commonwealth Fund found that the healthcare provided by the UK’s NHS was superior to that provided by countries which spent far more on health (including the USA in which private healthcare providers are the norm). The report concluded that the UK came first overall, scoring highest on effective, safe and patient centred care, access to services and efficient use of resources, and out-performing the other countries in its care for people with chronic conditions.  This high rating was despite spending the second-lowest amount on healthcare among the 11 countries.  (See http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jun/17/nhs-health.)

The Commonwealth Fund study reported in 2014, probably drawing on data collected before any effects of the HSC Act and financial cuts had become evident.

A recent review of 33 studies that looked at the provision of NHS services by private companies has found that, for the most part, introducing competition into the UK’s NHS brought negative results.  The review found a lack of evidence to show that private provision of NHS services led to improved quality of patient care. Outsourcing cleaning services had a negative impact on patient care, while outsourcing of clinical services (e.g. the provision of GP ‘out of hours’ services by private companies) showed ‘negative effects’ on patient care, poor value for money and lack of adequate monitoring and evaluation of services. http://www.psiru.org/reports/broken-promises-impact-outsourcing-nhs-services

Looking at a 2014 report on the only privately-run NHS hospital (Hitchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire) by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) provides more of a sense of what such ‘negative effects’ might be. The hospital was taken over by Circle in 1212 in a ten year contract worth about £1 billion. Concerns of the CQC included poor management, inadequate hygiene, and poor patient care, such as the treatment of patients in an undignified or emotionally abusive manner, with some patients on medical wards who lacked the capacity to consent being restrained by the use of sedation (see http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/sep/26/care-quality-commission-hinchingbrooke-hospital). Circle pulled out of its contract after three years, telling its investors that it was “no longer sustainable” to manage the hospital.

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