UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Scrapping of private patient limit will create a two tier NHS

Government moves to lift the cap on the funds that NHS Foundation Trusts can raise from private work, in most cases less than 5%, to a maximum of 49%, comes as no surprise to UNISON which has waged a long campaign to defend the NHS in England from creeping privatisation sought by Foundation Trust lobby groups and successive Governments: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16337904

The private patient cap was introduced by the Health and Social Care Act 2003 (which established NHS Foundation Trusts) to limit the income NHS Foundation Trusts can earn from private patient activity. Even under the previous Labour Government which introduced the concept, the union waged a tireless struggle to uphold the limit and in 2009, following a successful UNISON legal challenge, the High Court found that the regulator, Monitor, failed to produce accurate guidelines on what NHS Foundation Trust Hospitals need to declare on income derived from providing services to private patients

Prior to the 2010 general election Labour had been consulting on increasing the cap (even in mental health Foundation Trusts where it had been zero) and inevitably the advent of the Coalition government and its NHS white paper signalled the stepping up of privatisation.

In October 2010 UNISON lost its High Court bid to force the government to consult more widely and thoroughly on its proposed changes to the NHS. Following that decision UNISON’s Karen Jennings said the white paper: 'seems to be designed to reduce the NHS to little more than a brand name for the system. Care and compassion will give way to hard-nosed business decisions about what is affordable. What will happen to NHS patients if the white paper is implemented and the cap is taken off the number of private patients that foundation trusts can treat? The cap was put there for very good reasons. It prevents hospitals from cherry-picking more profitable private patients, pushing them to the head of the queue and forcing NHS patients to the bottom. We do not want a two tier health service eroding the very founding principles of our NHS’