NHS decision to team up with Bupa provokes union fury

6 Dec 01
Public sector unions have reacted furiously to the Department of Health's plans to link up with Britain's largest private sector provider.

07 December 2001

On December 4, Health Secretary Alan Milburn said the department would buy all the capacity at the Bupa Redwood Hospital in Redhill, Surrey, for NHS patients.

Up to 12,000 patients a year will be given non-urgent surgery or diagnostic tests by a mixture of NHS and Bupa staff from next April. Milburn said the deal would be signed soon.

The hospital will be the first of 20 fast-track diagnostic and treatment centres. The NHS Plan says eight will be up and running by 2004, and a further 12 will be in development.

It is likely most of the first tranche will be private units, and the NHS will either purchase capacity, as in the Redhill deal, or buy the hospital outright, as in the £27.5m acquisition of London's Heart Hospital in August.

The unions were angered that the announcement coincided with a day of action in support of public services. 'Routine operations need to be carried out more quickly and waiting lists need to come down. But we disagree with simply pushing it out to the private sector. We oppose vast profits being made by private companies running our services,' said Unison general secretary Dave Prentis.

GMB leader John Edmonds added: 'There are some people in Downing Street and the Department of Health who care more for the wellbeing of private health companies than the people who elected them.'


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