PLANS which could see cancer care privatised for the first time in the history of the health service have opened up a fresh debate about Britain’s healthcare provision.
Plans have been announced to award a £689m contract in Staffordshire, with four of the county’s clinical commissioning groups set to outsource services from this April.
At the same time, the CCGs are seeking bidders for a separate £535m contract to provide end-of-life care.
While an NHS organisation will be able to tender for the contracts, the commissioning groups have said they are open to a private company such as Care UK or Ramsay Health taking over the running of the services. Several firms have already attended briefings with Macmillan Cancer Care, who will be advising on the process.
The four CCGs – Cannock Chase, North Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford and Surrounds – have said they intend to improve services and insisted they will put patients first.
Andrew Donald, chief officer at Cannock Chase Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We want to provide the people of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent with world-class cancer and end of life care.
“Patients and carers have told us things are not as good as they should be. They have told us about not always knowing who to turn to in a crisis and about feeling they have become lost in the system or that they have struggled to get the right support at the right time. It’s clear to us that this is not acceptable.”
However, George Adamson, leader of Cannock Chase Council, feared the plans would be “privatisation by the back door” and the union Unison have branded the process a dangerous experiment.
If a private company does take over responsibility for the services, it will be the largest ever outsourcing of NHS services – more than double the £500m contract previously awarded to Virgin Care in Surrey.
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