NHS privatisation 'risks destabilising health services'
The increasing privatisation of the NHS risks "destabilising" and "fragmenting" health services, leading doctors have said.
The independent sector is playing an "increasing role" in providing NHS care, according to a new report from the British Medical Association (BMA).
Around 6.3% of the NHS in England's total budget is spent on healthcare that is provided by the private sector, totalling nearly £7 billion.
In 2009/10, 4.3% of the national health service budget was spent on independent sector provision of NHS healthcare.
A poll of medics found that many are "uncomfortable" with the privatisation of NHS services.
Of the 463 doctors surveyed for the report, 67% said they were were fairly or very uncomfortable with independent sector provision of NHS services.
The most common reason given was concern that it destabilises NHS services, closely followed by concerns that it causes the fragmentation of services.
The report states that there are still a " number of unknowns with regard to independent sector provision of NHS healthcare", prompting the authors to make a series of recommendations about the way the private sector works in the NHS.
They said that private providers should be held to the "same standards" as NHS providers.
This means they should be required to report both patient safety incidents and performance, the authors said.
Dr Mark Porter, the BMA council chair, said: "At a time when the NHS is facing huge financial pressure, more attention needs to be paid to private sector provision of NHS services to assess whether it provides value for money, high-quality, safe care to patients, as well as the impact it has on other NHS services.
"The NHS exists to provide the highest quality care for its patients. Anyone who doesn't accept that, or gets in the way of achieving it, should not be allowed near it.
"That's true for anyone who works in the health service, and it's also true for any individual or company providing services within it."