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NHS spending record amount on private firms

Private providers received £9.2bn last year

The NHS is giving a record amount of its budget to private healthcare firms, an analysis suggests.

The Department of Health and Social Care gave a total of £9.2bn to private providers last year – an increase of 14% from £8.1bn in 2014-15, and £410m more than in 2017-18.

The House of Commons Library verified the upward trend and sums involved from analysis it undertook at Labour’s request.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health and social care secretary, argued that the figures “blow apart Matt Hancock’s claims to parliament there would be no privatisation on his watch.”

The accounts reveal total spending on all non-NHS bodies has risen more sharply, from £10.32bn in 2014-15 to £13.75bn last year – an increase of 33% over four years. The figure includes money handed to both the voluntary and not-for-profit sector, which has risen threefold from £530m to £1.62bn, and to local councils, which has gone from £1.77bn to £2.9bn.

The department said that while the overall amount was going up, the rise in its budget meant that the proportion of that going to private firms had remained constant at 7.3%.

But Dr John Lister, a health policy academic and secretary of the campaign group Keep Our NHS Public, said private firms receive a far bigger slice of the share of the budget for certain forms of care than the independent sector’s 7.3% average.

“Last year, roughly 30% of all mental health spending was in the private sector and 44% of spending on child and adolescent mental health goes to private providers. Private sector domination is most complete in the provision of controversial ‘locked ward rehabilitation’, in which a massive 97% of a £304m market in 2015 was held by private companies,” he argued.

A spokesperson for the department said: “We want patients to receive the best quality of care possible and the vast majority is provided by the NHS, supported by independent organisations when a local doctor decides it is in their patients’ best interests.”