Circle have won the bid to be the first private company to run an NHS hospital. They beat off competition from NHS Foundation Trusts and other private sector providers to be named today as the company who will take over running the hospital in summer 2011. However despite the protests that will come from the ‘anti-privatisation’ brigade, this is actually more of a “mutualisation” as the trust’s assets will still be owned by the state and the staff will still have their NHS contracts.
Although the private sector account for only about 3% of NHS hospital and treatment provision at the moment, the bigger picture of private and business involvement demonstrates that the public-private partnership model is not new and does not cause the sky to fall down. Medicines, equipment, diagnostic devices, deliveries, catering, laundry, cleaning, pathology not to mention PFI ‘mortgages’ are all partly or fully supplied by the private sector.
What is important is not who runs the service or supplies the materials – it’s the quality of care and outcomes for patients – and of course that there are no charges for services. Monopolies maintain mediocrity – this announcement is an exciting and welcome development in the history of the NHS.