Doctors 4 the NHS reveal Health and Care Bill’s hidden danger of corporate control over NHS budgets and services

  • Doctors for the NHS, whose membership represents hundreds of years’ experience in the NHS, has issued a press release that warns of hidden dangers in the Health and Care Bill, currently making its way through Parliament.
  • Fresh from its Annual General Meeting, the group formerly known as the NHS Consultants’ Association is calling for MPs to table a new Amendment with the Public Bill Committee, to definitively close a huge loophole in the Bill that would allow private companies to control NHS budgets and the services on which we all depend.
  • Here is the Doctors for the NHS press release, issued on 6 October 2021

The enemy below: Health Minister’s promised NHS Bill amendment will not prevent private company piracy

The Health Minister’s promise of an amendment to the NHS Bill will not be enough to stop private companies taking part in decisions about NHS budgets and provision of services. Despite government assurances that private companies would not be allowed to sit on or influence the new Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) proposed by the Bill, Doctors for the NHS has learned of a deeper danger, which the government has so far hidden. 

The Bill omits key powers of the new statutory Integrated Care Boards – to be inserted by secondary legislation without Parliamentary scrutiny, debate or vote,  once the Bill has been enacted, according to “interim guidance” from NHS England. 

The new Boards will be responsible for arranging for the provision of almost all NHS services in their geographical area but the Bill omits any mention of their power to delegate their functions.  Add to that the fact that NHS England has issued instructions that the Boards’ constitutions should include multiple means for delegating their functions to a whole array of unspecified bodies – including Provider Collaboratives, which are also not mentioned in the Bill.  

This “interim guidance”, issued in August 2021, in particular, August 2021 NHSE interim guidance on Integrated Care Board Governance,  says all the Integrated Care Board delegation of functions will only be legislated for by statutory instrument and statutory guidance – with no Parliamentary scrutiny – if and when the Health & Care Bill is passed and becomes law.

Clinical Commissioning Groups are now steaming ahead with plans for their successor Integrated Care Boards to delegate lots of their budgets, decision making and contracting to all sorts of bodies and joint committees. If it succeeds, this underhand attempt to conceal from lawmakers the power of statutory ICBs to delegate their functions would open the NHS door wider to increased influence from private companies. 

DFNHS, along with other health campaigns, is now asking that a further amendment, already drafted,  is added to the Bill (See proposed amendment, downloadable below), while it’s still in the Public Bill Committee stage. The amendment would prevent the delegation of powers by statutory Integrated Care Boards and so close this covert ‘back door’ to further, ongoing NHS privatisation. Without such an amendment the Bill, when enacted and extended by secondary legislation,  would allow private companies to influence the NHS so that more healthcare ends up in private hands – with public money paying for it. All this with no parliamentary or even public scrutiny and over which Parliament would have absolutely no control.

Mr Colin Hutchinson, a retired Consultant eye surgeon and Chair of DFNHS, said:

‘Yet again, we have to ask: how many times must we call out the hidden dangers of private companies getting their hands on the ability to control NHS budgets and the services on which we all depend? Decisions on how public money is used should not be taken by persons that seek to profit from those decisions. There is no acknowledgment of that possibility by the Government. There seems to be no intention of allowing democratic scrutiny by Parliament.  This fuels the suspicion that the vow to “protect the NHS” is nothing more than a cynical slogan. If this is not the intention, it should be easy to put right, now with a simple amendment.”

Here’s where you can download the amendment supported by Doctors For the NHS

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