A move to put £75m worth of "non-complex" procedures out to tender in the latest privatisation move by the NHS in Cornwall has raised concerns.
West Cornwall MP, Andrew George, has criticised the Government for "forcing" local NHS chiefs to put core NHS hospital services out for a competitive bidding process.
Saying that the move to put services, including trauma and orthopaedics, general surgery, gynaecology and cardiology, out to tender, "puts market dogma above patients’ interests", Mr George added that this would lead to "fragmented" and "undermined services".
A board member of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) recently resigned "on principle" over a decision to privatise cleaning, catering and housekeeping jobs at the hospital.
Rik Evans said the decision to stand down was a protest against moving some of the lowest paid staff over to a private company that simply want "to increase their bank balance".
Local commissioners at NHS Kernow have now announced their intention to put a range of community elective (planned) services, including a proportion of those currently provided by Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust and by other providers such as Ramsey at Duchy and Bodmin Treatment Centre, into an open market procurement process, according to Mr George.
Mr George said: “I’m afraid this puts market dogma above patients’ interests. The Labour Government rolled out the red carpet for private companies. Although public procurement through a competitive process originates with the last Government, it was reinforced through this Government’s Health and Social Care Act, which I opposed.
“Now, any company from anywhere in the world can bid for those bits of planned health procedures which they believe will make them the greatest profit. If this leaves a fragmented Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust with undermined services, it will also undermine its ability to respond to unplanned and emergency health needs.
“NHS Kernow is doing an excellent job in its effort to reintegrate out of hours services following the mishandling of the Serco out of hours GP contract. The Government should be doing more to encourage commissioners like NHS Kernow to integrate health services in the patient’s interest rather than to risk seeing them fragmented and salami sliced for the benefit of those companies seeking rich pickings from the NHS.”