Dr John Lister: “Reduced transparency and public accountability with regard to what should be a public service”
Dr John Lister is an academic in health policy, and Secretary of campaigning organisation Keep Our NHS Public. In reference to today’s Queen’s speech in which Her Majesty referred to ‘additional NHS funding’ and ‘laws to simplify procurement in the public sector’, he has expressed concern over a lack of transparency and public accountability covering future tendering in the NHS.
“Ministers have been in denial over the scale of NHS financial problems since 2010: any recognition of that is better than nothing — as long as it’s not assumed that the NHS can rebuild with a minimal extra handout. Will this referred to additional NHS funding be enough? There needs to be a complete change of policy on maintenance and upgrading of equipment, with capital to re-plan and reorganise hospital wards to get thousands of beds back into use. There must be investment in reopening the NHS at its full capacity for the future rather than wasting billions on the stop-gap solution of using private hospital beds. The NHS also needs funding for a significant pay increase for NHS staff and investment in restoring bursaries and expanding training programmes to tackle the staff shortages.”
“Today’s Queen’s speech refers to ‘laws to simplify procurement in the public sector’. The White Paper confirmed earlier proposals from NHS England to establish Integrated Care Systems as statutory bodies, with the possibility of including private companies on boards, and to formally merge NHS England and NHS Improvement. Worryingly it made no commitment that the Boards would meet in public, publish their papers or be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The White Paper also included increased powers for the Secretary of State to intervene on local issues, abolition of local rights for councils to refer controversial plans to the Secretary of State, and abolition of the Independent Reconfiguration Panel. All these changes only serve to reduce transparency and public accountability with regard to what should be a public service.”
“The White Paper did however, propose scrapping much of Lansley’s 2012 legislation requiring local Clinical Commissioning Groups to carve up services into contracts and put them out to competitive tender. While on one level this is a welcome retreat from the ideological obsession with competition and markets in healthcare, only a small minority of contracts are currently subject to competitive tender, since NHS England has switched to framework contracts which allow purchasers to choose from a list of pre-approved providers.”
Spokespeople are available for interview. Contact Samantha Wathen
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Notes to editors
Written evidence on the NHS White Paper presented to the Health Select Committee by Keep Our NHS Public (March 2021): https://committees.parliament.