As reported in the Derbyshire Times, East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) lost the tender to run non-emergency ambulance services to Arriva Passenger Services and NSL Ltd.
The Ambulance Service was criticised for running a fleet of older vehicles, with the commissioners proudly reporting that private companies will run a new fleet of ambulances.
What the commissioners failed to point out is that EMAS would have replaced its fleet had it won the contracts!
Staff employed by EMAS now face an uncertain future following the decision to privatise their jobs. Unison condemned the decision as one that put financial savings ahead of the quality of service.
NSL and Arriva are required to reduce the number of patients transported by using strict eligibility criteria. I fear private companies will deny patients and off-load difficult and costly patients on to the NHS 999 fleet.
Will these companies understand these people are not simply passengers but patients with illnesses and disabilities and complex needs?
Private company involvement in the NHS flourished under Labour as existing laws allow private provision – for example ‘outsourcing’, and the scandal of PFI and private treatment centres.
Now we face the coalition bill which will require private provision, it was recently announced that 49 per cent of hospital beds could be used for private patients.
To most people the NHS is a cherished institution, it is hugely popular and is regarded as the most efficient health system in the industrialised world. However, to the Tories and Lib Dems it is nothing more than an untapped market.
Private markets in health are notorious for their huge administrative costs, lack of accountability, inequality and conflict of interests. The exclusion of the Private Sector from health and social care in 1948 (when the NHS was founded) was not a mistake; it was done by design. Do we not learn anything?