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Observations Life and Death

Dirty work

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 03 August 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3149
  1. Iona Heath, general practitioner, London
  1. aque22{at}

    The outsourcing of an undertaking as morally compromised as the detention of children takes the obsession with privatisation to new depths

    In 2005 the charity Save the Children estimated that every year in the United Kingdom up to 2000 children are held in administrative detention centres, as members of families that have been identified for enforced removal from the country. The detention centres are run by private companies on behalf of the UK Border Agency, which is part of the Home Office.

    Many people who have spent their working lives providing care directly to patients within the NHS are dismayed and demoralised by the current policy obsession with public-private partnerships and the assumption that only corporate attitudes and powerful economic incentives can drive creativity, innovation, and higher standards in our public services. Such people will always find something distasteful in companies that make huge private profits for directors and shareholders out of the misfortune of the sick, alongside a belief that general taxation should not be making such a direct contribution to these profits and an undercurrent of worry about the rise of perverse …

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