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Ending the secrecy that shrouds the sell off of the NHS

The NHS gets the recognition the government won't give it...The arguments about the fragmentation and privatisation of NHS services are well rehearsed. The public know the reorganisation wasted £3 billion and vital resources which should have been spent on frontline services and patients, but what has often gone unnoticed is the democratic deficit and the erosion of our rights to question those who run public services and spend our money.

Freedom of information (FoI) is one of the Labour government’s greatest achievements, ensuring transparency and accountability in modern government but currently it is not possible to make private providers comply with freedom of information requests, which is why this week I re-tabled my Private Members Bill ‘to amend the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to apply to private healthcare companies; and all other bodies seeking health service contracts’.

Owing to the government’s policy of opening up public services to the private and voluntary sectors, billions of pounds of NHS contracts are now being made available to the private sector. Since the implementation of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, 70 percent of NHS contracts have been awarded to private healthcare companies, many with pasts checkered with fraud, failure and criminality. Unfortunately, while more and more taxpayer money is being handed to the private sector, the public have their hands tied when trying to obtain information about how our NHS is being run.

My Bill would extend the provisions of the FoI Act to all bodies, whether public, private or voluntary, bidding for NHS contracts and ensure that freedom of information legislation is applied equally in the implementation of any public contract. It would stop private health care companies operating behind a cloak of commercial confidentiality and prevent billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money being awarded to private sector companies under barely transparent contracts.

Despite the massive investments made by the public in the NHS, more and more NHS service providers are now free from financial scrutiny by the very people who made the investments – the UK taxpayer. It is common-sense that FoI responsibilities should follow the public pound and when the Prime Minister was in opposition, he agreed, promising to increase the range of publicly funded bodies subject to scrutiny. Now, unfortunately, it would appear that nothing is being done to address the democratic deficit caused by the outsourcing of public services. In fact, yesterday the Government excluded Network Rail, another public body, from FoI requests, something I have already written to the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin about asking him to reverse his decision.

As the NHS contract says, the NHS belongs to the people. It is time for political leaders to deliver on their promises. If we are to safeguard the public’s right to know what is happening in their name and how their money is being spent, we must extend Freedom of Information legislation to all providers of public services no matter if they are in the voluntary, public or private sector.

This post previously appeared in the Morning Star

One Comment

  1. jeffrey davies says:

    yet you state private has well to answer foi yet you bet most dont want private companys at all in the nhs you see if we go down that road then the yank companys will fleece us like they do with medicare can you honestly stop them nah gives us back our nhs no if no buts jeff3

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