The number of private firms delivering NHS care has risen dramatically, according to new research published today.
Companies such as Virgin Care and Care UK saw the private care sector win contracts totalling more than £3.5 billion in 2014-15 - five times the previous year.
A report by the NHS Support Federation pressure group said that since the coalition Government’s Health and Social Care Act came into force in April 2013 the amount of NHS care delivered through the market has multiplied.
Outsourcing has expanded rapidly and it is “undeniable” that privatisation is happening within the NHS, it said, claiming that if the rate of increase continues, healthcare will end up being dominated by big business.
Non-NHS organisations have consistently won more awards in every year since 2010, it said, with the win rate never dropping below 60 per cent over the past five years.
Among recent contracts won in Yorkshire, Virgin Care was last month awarded a £6 million-a-year deal to run community and out-of-hours services in the Whitby area for the next seven years.
Last month NHS chiefs announced 11 private health companies would share a £780m national contract to provide diagnostic and surgical procedures in the biggest example of outsourcing of NHS clinical services to date.
“The contract winners include three companies that have been involved in high-profile scandals around their performance in other NHS contracts, Circle, Vanguard and Care UK,” the federation said.
Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust in Cambridgeshire became the first to be run by a private operator when it was taken over by Circle in 2012, but the company announced it was pulling out of the deal in January, hours before the release of a highly critical report by the Care Quality Commission.
NHS Support Federation director Paul Evans said: “It is undeniable that privatisation is happening within the NHS. The evidence shows that outsourcing has been supercharged by the government’s NHS changes. Stick to the same path and our healthcare will become dominated by business and our NHS will be far less likely to survive.”