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Privatising NHS services impacts ‘quality of care’

Pa
Thursday, Jun 30, 2022

LONDON: Increased privatisation of NHS services has led to a decline in the quality of healthcare and increased rates of deaths from treatable causes, researchers have claimed.

Academics said that avoidable deaths increased as more private services were used. They estimated that 557 additional deaths between 2014 and 2020 might be attributed to changes in outsourcing.

The study, published in The Lancet Public Health journal, examined the impact of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 in England, which “intensified pressures on the NHS to outsource service provision from state-owned providers to private for-profit providers”.

The researchers from the University of Oxford examined how much each regional health body spent on outsourcing between 2013 and 2020.

They also looked at levels of “treatable mortality” – or deaths which could have been avoided with timely and appropriate healthcare.

Spending on private companies increased from 4 per cent of all money spent by local health bodies in 2013 to 6 per cent in 2020. But there were wide geographical differences across local clinical commissioning groups, with some spending up to 20 per cent of their funding commissioning services from private companies.

In total, £11.5 billion was spent outsourcing health services to the private sector over the period studied. Statistical analysis concluded that an annual increase in outsource spending of 1 per cent was associated with a rise in treatable mortality of 0.38 per cent – or 0.29 deaths per 100,000 people.

Researchers said their analysis suggests that 557 additional deaths between 2014 and 2020 might be attributed to changes in outsourcing.

“The privatisation of the NHS in England, through the outsourcing of services to for-profit companies, consistently increased in 2013–20,” they wrote.

“Private sector outsourcing corresponded with significantly increased rates of treatable mortality, potentially as a result of a decline in the quality of healthcare services.”

Study author Benjamin Goodair, from the University of Oxford, said: “While some have argued the Health and Social Care Act would improve the performance of health services by increasing competition, our findings add merit to long-standing concerns it could instead lead to cost-cutting and poorer health outcomes.”