Block private firms from landing NHS contracts, says Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been urged to stop private companies from securing NHS contracts.

A total of 26 health service contracts worth more than £128m are currently out to tender, according to research commissioned by the Labour Party.

Shadow health and social care secretary Jonathan Ashworth will call for a guarantee that they remain in public hands during a House of Commons debate today.

He will also hit out at Mr Hancock’s “privatisation credentials”, after he spoke in support of Babylon’s GP at Hand, which offers appointments by smartphone, and visited a private Access MyDentist practice in Suffolk. The NHS is required to tender out any contract worth more than £615,278.

“This Health Secretary’s privatisation credentials become clearer by the day, whether it’s promoting GP at Hand to endorsing private dentistry to now allowing millions of pounds worth of health services contracts to be privatised,” Mr Ashworth is expected to say.

Contracts currently out to tender include one worth £90m to run an NHS 111 centre serving Kent, Medway and Sussex. The Department of Health said decisions over contracts were taken by experts and in the best interest of patients.

A spokesman added: “We’re committed to providing world-class NHS services that are always free at the point of use and are investing £20.5bn a year extra by 2023-24 to guarantee the future of our health service through the NHS Long Term Plan.”

Separate research has found that having more NHS managers improves efficiency and the quality of care in hospitals. A study by the Universities of Bristol, Warwick and Leeds looked at data on managers and the performance of 160 hospital trusts in England from 2007 to 2012.

Even an increase in managers from two per cent of the workforce to three per cent was associated with a 15 per cent reduction in infection rates.