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Government Accused Of Yielding NHS To Outside Interests

Campaigners and unions have accused the Government; of trying to "privatise the NHS by stealth" after they had encouraged and called on large private// sector companies to apply for the management of the healthcare services.

Explaining that the notice on the contract in the Official Journal of the European Union said, 'The NHS is progressing with the implementation of the vision and step change from a service-provider to a commissioning-led organisation.'The document also stated that the services that were to have been provided by the bidders were, management of financial, administrative, human resources, health and social work services.

It was also mentioned that the potential applicants are expected to have an experience of managing £300 million plus health budgets, which meant that only large insurers and providers like the US firms United Healthcare and Kaiser Permanente are likely to be eligible.

The government withdrawal of the advertisement yesterday, which according to Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, contained 'drafting errors and therefore did not accurately reflect Government policy,' had created plenty of confusion. The healthcare unions were unconvinced of Miss Hewitt's explanation and they have announced their plans to meet soon so as to co-ordinate a response. Karen Jennings, the head of health at Unison, said, 'It is hard to see it as anything other than privatisation by stealth. We are asking the TUC to set up an urgent meeting of all health unions, so we can work together to stop these proposals becoming a reality.'

It was reported that PCTs (Primary care trusts) are responsible for around 80% of the £80 billion yearly NHS budget, wherein most of the money is spent for paying the GP surgeries, hospital operations, and drugs. Dr John Lister, of the campaign group 'Keep Our NHS Public' has said, 'Handing over control of the bulk of PCT budgets to American insurance companies is quite clearly pri vatisation. The most shocking thing is that what is clearly a fundamental re-organisation of the NHS has not been discussed outside a circle of ministers and civil servants. Now they have withdrawn the advert, making this what appears to be a double U-turn.”

Miss Hewitt clarified yesterday that there is no question whatsoever of about privatising the NHS. She said, “Some PCTs have indicated that they would like to consider the possibility of buying in some management and support services. To give PCTs this option, the Department of Health intends to place a national framework contract with suitably qualified providers.”

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