The decision to award a contract to run local community health services in North Kent to Virgin Care shows that NHS has effectively been put up for sale by the Conservatives.
While there can be a role in the NHS for the private and voluntary sector where can add extra capacity or provide a different service, in this case millions of pounds of public money is being handed to a private company to run an existing NHS service. Even more concerning is the fact that in the tender process, the NHS bid scored higher than Virgin Care on quality – which raises real questions about whether the decision to award the contract has been made on what delivers the best outcomes for patients – or on simply who was the cheapest.
The NHS needs to change and evolve but what shouldn’t change is that our NHS is run on a very simple principle – that the care of people come before profit. That principle is being undermined by deals like this and it makes the governments claims to be committed to a publicly owned NHS seem very hollow.
The Livingstone Hospital in Dartford is one of the hospitals where services will now been run by Virgin Care. Labour will be asking what scrutiny will in place to ensure there is no degradation of the service and what protections will be in place for the hard working staff at The Livingstone. Virgin Care need to be accountable to public in running this service.
The last Labour government increased investment in the NHS. Everyone accepts the need for the NHS to evolve and change to meet growing demand and changing needs. We believe the NHS can meet that challenge but decisions like this show do show a lack of faith from the government in the NHS clinicians, doctors and nurses who are among the best in the world. The government should be getting behind the NHS not starving it of investment. The Conservatives are failing the NHS and deals like this means that we are seeing the gradual privatisation of our health service. Labour will always fight to keep the NHS free at the point of use and in public hands.
The Leader of Dartford Labour - Jonathon Hawkes highlighted these concerns on BBC Radio Kent this week – you can hear the interview here