Privatisation of NHS Maternity Services

Many Tory and Lib Dem supporters insist that the government’s Health and Social Care Bill will not lead to privatisation, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Today has seen another piece of compelling evidence with the news that NHS Wirral has announced it will be using a private provider to provide maternity care.

The private company being used, ‘One to One Midwifery’, has an initial three year contract. It is also in talks with other NHS trusts to take over more maternity services. This is privatisation – a private company will now profit from the NHS and we won’t have a choice about it. That’s right, we won’t have a choice, and this is very important to understand. The government keeps providing all sorts of misleading reassurances about patient ‘choice’ being great. There is no actual evidence to show that choice improves care or outcomes, but even if you think it does, choice is not being provided here. Patients in the area are simply being referred to One To One’s services, as the first post on this Mumsnet page demonstrates.

You may believe in a fragmented NHS with many competing providers, but even if you do, that’s simply not happening – private companies are simply being handed monopolies, just as they were when other public services were nationalised. Just like the trains, where we were promised that competition would reduce fares and improve services yet the result was higher fares, higher taxpayer subsidies and worse services, the same is going to happen to healthcare.

By definition, patient ‘choice’ in healthcare will mean replication, and replication is waste. If patients are referred to ‘One to One’ then the NHS services won’t be used and will eventually be scaled back and closed. To suggest otherwise is simply nonsensical. Once the NHS facilities close, bad luck – you have to use One To One, and you can bet that they’ll start charging way more than the NHS ever did.

Private healthcare companies are in it for the long game. They can afford to lose money on contracts until the NHS services are cut – the profits will come after that, when people have no choice but to use them. Their objective is to make money after all, and you can’t make money unless you pay your staff less or provide a worse service than a non-profit organisation. And for those free-marketers who claim that this just shows that the private sector is more efficient, One To One has only been able to provide the service with the backing of the Department of Health for the insurance, so the tax-payer is taking the risk while the private sector is making the profits. Again.