The Scottish Government said it is “absolutely committed” to resisting NHS privatisation after a Ferret investigation into private healthcare led to more than 1,000 people signing an open letter to the health secretary.
The letter, coordinated by public-ownership campaign group We Own It, challenged Michael Matheson on the findings of our recent GPs in Crisis investigation, and urged him to halt the use of the private sector in the NHS.
The Ferret found that private firms operating in Scotland had financial links to politicians, were accused of mistreating staff and patients, and were charging up to £250 for 15-minute GP appointments.
We also revealed private companies were obtaining medical reports from GPs for people seeking gun licences.
In response, the government said it was “absolutely committed to keeping our NHS true to its founding principles – publicly-owned, publicly-operated, and free at the point of need.”
However, a spokesperson added it would make “limited use” of private hospitals to provide additional patient capacity. The health service was “currently reviewing plans for what level of activity will go through the private sector in 2023/24”, the government added.
‘Evidence’ of NHS privatisation
We Own It’s original letter highlighted the Scottish Government had spent over £18m on private healthcare in attempts to bring down waiting times.
“If you needed evidence of [privatisation], the recent research by The Ferret showing that private healthcare companies are charging Scots who are in dire health situations £250 in the midst of a cost of living crisis to see a doctor for JUST 15 minutes, should put it beyond doubt,” Matheson was told.
“What is more, with The Ferret’s revelation that many of the private healthcare companies cashing in on the NHS crisis have Labour and Conservative politicians and donors as shareholders and directors, it is time for you to put it beyond any doubt that there is no clandestine systematic effort to undermine our beloved Scottish NHS in such a way as to create market opportunities for profit making health companies.”
Johnbosco Nwogbo, lead campaigner at We Own It, said: “Hundreds of Scots signed our open letter for a clear reason: the NHS is being privatised by stealth and Scots won’t stand for it.
“It is clear that the private sector is no solution at all to capacity issues in the NHS. Quite the opposite: it is a drain on our NHS. The private sector’s business model relies on making a profit by filching experienced staff away from the NHS, thus saving on training costs.
“If the Scottish Government is serious in its commitment to the NHS’s founding principles, then they will reduce private-sector spend following this year’s review. An increase would be a betrayal of the values that we champion.”
He added: “Now we need Scottish Labour, Conservatives and Greens to come out and commit to getting the private sector out of our NHS as well.”
Header image thanks to It’s No Game.