Magazine article Public Finance

Outrage over Plan to Use Private Managers in the NHS

Magazine article Public Finance

Outrage over Plan to Use Private Managers in the NHS

Article excerpt

Unions have reacted with fury to government plans to bring in private sector firms to run failing NHS trusts, while health service professionals have accused the Department of Health of recycling old failed policies.

In a June 4 document, Developing the NHS performance regime, health minister Ben Bradshaw set out plans for minimum standards of quality, safety and financial management

Trusts failing to meet the standards - part of a performance management framework that will be distinct from the Healthcare Commission's inspection regime - will be deemed to be challenged' and given a set timescale to improve.

Those that fail to lift their performance will have their management team replaced in one of three ways: by a fresh team of NHS managers; takeover by a foundation trust; or by the introduction of a private sector management team under contract.

Dr Jonathan Fielden, chair of the British Medical Association's consultants committee, speaking at the BMA consultants' conference, asked: 'How much do they want to offend their backbenchers? How much do they want to demoralise the talent in the NHS that can do so much if not always played down and insulted by ministers? How little do they know of the complexities of the NHS? You can't just fly in management.'

Unison senior national officer Mike Jackson agreed that it was 'unlikely that private sector managers would have the necessary experience of delivering acute and emergency services to bring long-term benefits'.

He added: "There is a strong public service ethos in the NHS which would be severely damaged by bringing in private management.'

NHS Confederation policy director Nigel Edwards questioned the need to replace managers. 'In some cases poor management is the problem and new management is needed. In other cases, there are intractable system issues like too many sites, the wrong buildings or over-provision. We need to have solutions that are tailored to the reasons behind the problem,' he said.

Edwards told Public Finance he was 'puzzled' by the emphasis on private management teams, given that ministers had 'previously issued policy in this area .

The introduction of private managers to turn around failing trusts was first raised in the July 2000 NHS Plan. …

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