NHS reform: Hackney councillor warns private companies will “cherry pick” services to detriment of local hospitals

Councillor John McShane, the shadow chair of Hackney Health and Wellbeing board, has warned the government’s reforms could see private companies “cherry picking” some of the easier to deliver services destabilising local hospitals.

As an example he cited the commissioning of sexual health services - something the council will be responsible for from next April, but has already begun work on.

“In sexual health there has been a real push (from the Department of Health) in getting companies like Virgin and Health UK to deliver sexual health services, but anyone who works in sexual health knows that when sexual health and HIV services are delivered in the same hospital, that’s what allows HIV services to continue, they cross fund each other,” said Jonathan McShane at a public meeting in Abney Hall to discuss the government’s NHS reform.

“When you take out sexual health it’s no longer viable to deliver HIV services in those hospitals, so what we are having is a government driving local commissioners to do things that mean private companies are cherry picking some of the easier to deliver services and cases, and are leaving our local hospitals with the complex cases.

“What’s going to happen is NHS hospitals around the country are no longer going to be financially viable, and I think the question you have to ask is, “Is that an unintended consequence of a poorly thought out policy or is it in fact a very much an intended consequence of a party which doesn’t agree with the principles of solidarity which underpin the NHS?””

The board will take over �23m of the budget, leaving the CCG with �50m and specialist companies instructed centrally by the National Commissioning Board with �17m.

The pledge adopted by people at the meeting seeks a promise from the local Labour party they will support a promise to repeal the Health and Social Care Act should they come to power, Cllr McShane rejected this.

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“The dangerous part of the act is part three which promotes markets and promotes competition, I think we should keep Health and Wellbeing boards, it’s an exciting opportunity,” he said.

The board has identified four key priorities for work in first 18 months: children’s health and obesity, older people with a focus on caring for people with dementia, mental health with a focus on depression and anxiety and smoking.

A Department for Health spokeswoman said competition gives patients more choice and better care and is a “proven means” of driving-up service quality.

“Patient choice and competition were introduced, including for community services like sexual health, by the previous government,” she added.