Why politicians must invest in the NHS, not private profits

Politicians present using the private sector as a short term solution that has no negative effect on the NHS and on patients.

But tonight's Panorama documentary shows that the effects on patients can sometimes be life or death.

But even as a short-term, interim solution to the waiting list crisis, this is the wrong solution. Using the private sector is a far less effective solution than immediately ramping up investment in NHS capacity and paying NHS staff better so they don’t feel the need to take on second jobs. 

Using the private sector is bad both for patients and for the NHS, and is unlikely to work. Recent Oxford University analysis has shown a link between outsourcing and poorer quality care for patients. 

The research also shows that when services moved from public to private, staff-to-patient ratios declined and patients with more serious, less profitable to treat conditions were left out.

It is also worth noting in the context of private hospitals “helping” cut waiting lists, that private hospitals sent 550 of their patients to the NHS every month on average between 2016 and 2021. This hurts the budgets of NHS trusts and worsens the care available to people in NHS hospitals, which Oxford researchers have previously linked to the deaths of hundreds of people.

The business model of private hospitals is fairly transparent. They make billions from NHS contracts to provide surgery, but when things go badly they dump all the costs back on to the NHS.

Contracting out NHS surgeries to private hospitals undermines the NHS's ability to train more NHS doctors to fill vacancies. The NHS uses the simpler, most straightforward cases, which private hospitals tend to take on, to train its doctors; outsourcing those cases means training fewer doctors for the future.

And finally, spending NHS money on private hospitals builds up and strengthens private healthcare, and weakens the NHS. This throws the doors to two-tier healthcare in Britain wide open.

78% of the British public, from across the political spectrum, want our NHS fully public - and properly funded.

The real solution to waiting lists is to immediately ramp up investment in NHS capacity and pay NHS staff better. For example, the government and Labour can immediately reach a generous pay agreement with NHS junior doctors and nurses, which will not only help the NHS retain staff who are currently leaving in droves but lure back staff who have left, including those currently working in the private sector.