Intended for healthcare professionals


A third of NHS contracts awarded since health act have gone to private sector, BMJ investigation shows

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 10 December 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g7606

In the run up to the UK general election, accusations are flying about the alleged privatisation of the NHS in England. The BMJ’s reporter Gareth Iacobucci investigates the reality behind the claims

Private sector providers have secured a third of the contracts to provide NHS clinical services that have been awarded in England since the Health and Social Care Act came into force in April 2013, an investigation by The BMJ has found.

Its analysis of 3494 contracts awarded between April 2013 and August 2014 disclosed to it under requests made under freedom of information legislation showed that, in total, non-NHS providers (including private sector, voluntary sector, and other providers) have secured 45% of contracts awarded since April 2013 (fig 1). The analysis of the data supplied by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) showed that 1149 contracts (33% of the total) were awarded to private sector providers, 335 (10%) to voluntary and social enterprise sector providers, and 100 (3%) to other types of provider, such as joint ventures or local authorities.

A total of 1910 contracts (55%) were awarded to NHS providers. This category included NHS hospitals, community and mental health providers, and general practices.

Key findings: No of CCGs supplying data, where contracts were awarded, and where the money went

The BMJ analysed a range of contract types, including those awarded to a single source without an open tender, those awarded through a competitive tendering process, and those awarded to several providers under “any qualified provider,” a government policy that opened up a wide range of community based NHS services to different providers outside the NHS.

Of the contracts that were analysed, 195 (6%) were awarded by competitive tender. Private sector providers were most successful at bidding for these contracts, winning 80 contracts (41%), whereas NHS providers won …

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