Backpedalling from Blair's privatisation agenda

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 18 October 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:794
  1. Nicholas Timmins, public policy editor
  1. Financial Times

    In the four months since Gordon Brown became prime minister, what has happened to the Blairite agenda of choice, competition, and—most particularly—the use of the private sector as key drivers of NHS reform? On the face of it, even an informed observer has every right to feel confused.

    Since 27 June, Alan Johnson, the new health secretary, has announced the cancellation of a third round of independent sector treatment centres—when no third round was in fact ever planned. A whole clutch of contracts for second round independent sector treatment centres and for diagnostics—originally due to be signed off late last year and early this year—remain under permanent review. Only a minority are now expected to go ahead.

    Members of a high powered board, which advised the health department's commercial directorate on these and other central contracts, have resigned together. Board members included a Rothschild banker and senior legal, investment, and private finance specialists. They were, they declared, “wasting their time” because, as one member put it, “no one is listening” since Tony Blair went.

    The terms “competition” and “use of the private sector” as a means to reform the NHS …

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