The NHS: A Private Sector Organisation?

Last night in the London 2012 Opening Ceremony an entire segment was devoted to the National Health Service, celebrating one of our greatest institutions, Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Marvellous. The envy of the world! Or so Danny Boyle would have us think.

Public sector healthcare, free for all, caring and treating anyone and everyone. In your face America! With your privatised systems, health insurance and extortionate bills.

Hold on. Let’s take a second.


Whilst doctors and nurses were jiving in the Olympic Stadium I wondered through which set of rose tinted spectacles had Mr Boyle surveyed our greatest public sector institution. Has he visited any hospital wards recently? Has he been on a waiting list? Perish the thought of becoming ill abroad and having all the terrible fees to pay.

Mr Boyle, excuse my vitriol but healthcare is in a state of flux of reform and re-organisation where elderly care services are failing and where front line healthcare staff are struggling with a terrific lack of resources whilst trying to maintain world class care for all our patients. Yet at the same time the culture of our NHS is one of unabashed arrogance where we think we know best and refuse to acknowledge the need for any sense of reform!

The P word. Privatisation. You have whisper it if you’re anywhere near a hospital because the loathing that will be dumped upon you should you mention it as a viable solution will be lethal in its ferocity.

If I told you that the NHS was only public at the point of care but that really the driving machine is a hybrid of public and private collaboration would you believe me?

I could list for you a range of privately contracted services:

  • IT in Primary Care
  • Courier Services for Blood Products
  • Catering Services
  • Deep Cleaning Services
  • Infection Control Services
  • Payroll Processing
  • Estates Management
  • Portering Services

These are just a few of the pivotal services in NHS trusts that are often contracted out and supplied (often successfully) by private groups. We have not even mentioned the range of private surgical centres embedded within NHS trusts shortening waiting lists that trusts cannot handle in which operations are performed more swiftly, more effectively and more cost-effectively.

Private sector institutions are not the angels saving the NHS and neither are they the death knell for free healthcare for all. Some have failed abysmally but the significant majority are silently providing the services we rely on to treat our patients effectively in a timely manner.

I am not advocating wholesale privatisation but I think vast swathes of the population need to recognise the real NHS. The NHS that is being propped up by the forces that so many seem to despise.

Profit incentive? It’s running the NHS already.

Agree, disagree,discuss? Tweet me @Saif_Abed

Dr Saif F Abed
Founding Partner
AbedGraham Healthcare Strategies Ltd


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