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Childrens Services First Casualty Of Privatised And Fragmented NHS

Devon NHS children's services are about to be privatised in a move which will inevitably lead to the fragmentation of the NHS and provides a foretaste of NHS break-up, according to reports in The Guardian newspaper late last week, and days before a crucial vote in the House of Lords on whetgher or not to delay the Health Care Services Bill; until after the Risk Register on the ramification for the NHS of the Bill.

The newspaper article says that:

Click to read full Guardian article“…………. NHS Devon and Devon county council have shortlisted bids led by two private, profit-making companies – Serco and Virgin Care – to provide frontline services for children across the county, including some of the most sensitive care for highly vulnerable children and families, such as some child protection services, treatment for mentally ill children and adolescents, therapy and respite care for those with disabilities, health visiting, and palliative nursing for dying children.

Also on the shortlist for the £130m three-year NHS contract is Devon Partnership NHS trust, bidding along with Barnardo's and other local charities. But a source close to the process, which is now in its fourth and final stage, has told the Guardian that one of the two commercial companies' bids looks likely to win the tender.

Final bids will be evaluated in May. The contract will be awarded to "the most economically advantageous" bid, according to criteria listed for it on the European commission website, where any European public tenders are required by competition law to be published.”

But any claims that this situation is purely down to the current government policy on privatising the NHS via its Health Care Services Bill are thoroughly dashed in the Guardian article:

“Under reforms originally introduced by the Labour government, NHS commissioning bodies are also separating out any function they have had as providers of services. Since the Department of Health is not collecting data centrally on tenders, it is impossible to be sure how many other similar bids are under way.

The Department of Health says this would happen anyway. Health minister Simon Burns said:

"The health bill is not relevant to this tender – local commissioners are following procurement rules issued by the previous Labour government.

The health bill is the first piece of legislation that prevents discrimination in favour of private health companies over the NHS. In addition, it introduces safeguards to ensure patients can continue to access services, closing a hole left by the previous government."

A spokesman for Lansley said the Devon bid was an example of how reforms were following the direction of travel for the NHS set long before the current government.”

Click to go to NHS Support Federation website Further, a 2010 study by the NHS Support Foundation found 23 commercial companies ran a total of 227 GP surgeries and health centres. These companies can be given contracts without any public consultation, while thorough information on the safety and quality of services they provide is currently not open to public scrutiny.

Furthermore, if they don't make enough profit they can simply pull out of their contracts. To read the report click on the image on the right.

The Guardian newspaper article goes on to report on warnings from the Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Paediatrics about the future for the NHS.

Clare Gerada, president of the Royal College of GPs, is quoted as saying she believes the outsourcing of children's services in Devon is a warning of what the Health Care Services Bill will bring:

"This is exactly what the bill is about. Devon is just one example. Once the bill goes through it will solidify what is already going on now. Contracts will be commercial in confidence, GPs will end up rubber-stamping them and any company for profit will put shareholders before patients. We will find the NHS as we know it fragmented."

As everyone opposing the bill has repeatedly warned, the matter of so-called ‘commercial confidentiality’ has immediately been used in order for the PCT concerned to refuse to provide specific details of the plan, says the Guardian article:

“Neither private company in the Devon bids has experience of running specialist children's health services for the NHS. Serco, a London-listed company that made nearly £300m profit last year, plans to run the services in partnership with Cornwall Partnership NHS trust, which provides mental health and disability services to adults and community health services to children in the neighbouring county.

But the extent of the NHS trust's role is not clear and the PCT said it was commercially confidential.

Several public health experts critical of the bill expressed dismay and disbelief that high-risk children's services were being contracted out. They questioned whether they could be safely run for profit.”

Also quoted is John Ashton, director of public health for Cumbria:

"What on earth are they doing taking risks with our children like this? Children's services such as these are very complex and involve working with lots of agencies, from local authorities to police and schools, over long periods. How on earth a private company can function in that area when it needs to identify ways of making money is really hard to see."

Click to download reportThe Royal College of Paediatrics Professor president Terence Stephenson has previously called on the government to withdraw the bill questioning whether private companies could run such important public services.

He told The Guardian:

"It is hard to understand why a tender for something as important and complex as children's services has not been put into the public domain for scrutiny by professionals," he said.

"Children's services are complex, as some tragic high -profile incidents have shown. It is essential that any provider has proven expertise in managing not only clinical services but also key areas such as safeguarding and, on the face of it, it does not appear that all of the shortlisted bidders have experience in managing such services."

The full Guardian Newspaper article can be read here

The NHS Support Foundation’s website can be accessed here

Download report into who runs our GP services here

Source: The Guardian

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