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Healthcare outsourcing from NHS to independent sector rose from 4.8% of market in 2009 to 7% in 2014, report shows

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h1120 (Published 27 February 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1120
  1. Adrian O’Dowd
  1. 1London

The role of the private sector in the NHS has been growing steadily under the coalition government, concludes a report by LaingBuisson, a healthcare consultancy.

The latest edition of LaingBuisson’s Healthcare Market Review,1 published on 26 February, contained figures detailing the growth of outsourced NHS services in the independent sector.

Despite what LaingBuisson called “continuing rough terrain” for independent sector involvement in the UK health and care sectors, it found that growth in these markets had outstripped that of the previous year. The report showed that independent sector providers in the 12 health and care market segments it monitors as part of its yearly review generated revenues of £44.3bn (€60.9bn; $68.2bn) in 2013-14, up from £40.5bn in 2012-13.

With a general election imminent LaingBuisson said that it was looking at how markets had shifted since the coalition government came to power, comparing 2014 with 2009, the last full year of the former Labour administration. The weighted average share of healthcare markets (totalling more than £100bn a year) that is outsourced from the NHS to independent sector providers (profit and not-for-profit data combined) has risen from 4.8% in 2009 to 7% in 2014, said the consultancy.

Growth was positive in each of the major market areas that LaingBuisson has reported on in the past year, it said, apart from homecare, which saw a small drop from continued council cuts due to central government funding reductions. The main driver of growth has been the outsourcing of publicly paid services and a resurgence of privately paid healthcare as the United Kingdom has emerged from recession, the report noted.

William Laing, LaingBuisson chief executive and the report’s author, said, “Having weathered the economic downturn and established a more solid foothold in NHS outsourced healthcare, we are now on the cusp of a period of renewed opportunities for independent healthcare providers.

“Despite ongoing political arguments over the role of private providers in delivery of NHS services, and the high profile breakdown of the Circle/Hinchingbrooke contract,2 prospects look reasonably positive given the broad direction of change towards pluralism in public healthcare markets, together with strengthening self pay demand and a surge in overseas demand for UK based hospitals.”

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Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1120

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