Research funded by health science charity and published in world’s oldest medical journal says increased privatisation in the NHS goes hand in hand with avoidable mortality
A new study published in the Lancet, the world’s oldest medical journal, has concluded that increased NHS privatisation is associated with an increase in avoidable (‘treatable’) death in the UK’s health service – and that their findings disprove claims by advocates of government policies (who sit on the Labour front bench as well as the Tory benches) that privatisation has not increased.
The study’s authors raise the question whether the increase that they observed is driven by the greater cost-cutting and therefore profit-taking of private ‘providers’ compared to genuine, public NHS provision, and to the tendency for privateers to cherry-pick the easiest and more profitable patients, leaving the not-for-profit NHS under greater pressure. The study concludes that every 1% of greater privatisation corresponds with an increase of 0.38% in the deaths that could have been avoided through treatment:
We found that an annual increase of one percentage point of outsourcing to the private for-profit sector corresponded with an annual increase in treatable mortality of 0·38% (95% CI 0·22–0·55; p=0·0016) or 0·29 (95% CI 0·09–0·49; p=0·0041) deaths per 100 000 population in the following year.
The study’s authors concluded:
The privatisation of the NHS in England, through the outsourcing of services to for-profit companies, consistently increased in 2013–20. Private sector outsourcing corresponded with significantly increased rates of treatable mortality, potentially as a result of a decline in the quality of health-care services.Emphasis added
The study was funded by the Wellcome Trust, a health research charity not known for any ideological opposition to health privatisation – in fact the charity has been criticised for its private healthcare investments.
The Tories’ ideological commitment to privatisation is well known. Shamefully, the current Labour front bench shares the view, with Keir Starmer refusing to commit to the renationalisations he promised during his leadership campaign and his senior shadow health spokesman Wes Streeting publicly saying that Labour would increase privatisation in the health service. The Tories’ new health bill has reduced scrutiny and NHS activists say that, as in the US system on which it is based, it incentivises providers to withhold care and cut costs.
The increased privatisation and the lack of political honesty about it has long provided cover for the Tories to claim they are putting more money into the NHS while in fact enriching the health privateers who donate to the Conservative party. The current Labour regime’s collusion in the fiction is an equal scandal.
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