I am currently writing an EPQ on the NHS and a supposed neglect for a certain demographic within British society. Anyone doing an EPQ knows the shear amount of research that goes into the process and how much you learn from it. I read multiple articles and books, watched documentaries and videos and listened to podcasts, however I still felt as though I didn’t have enough information, therefore I conducted my own interviews with current and former healthcare workers. Throughout my research and interviews that I have conducted there seems to be a common theme running through many doctors minds; and that is privatisation.


Unfortunately our government has proved that they might not equip to run the NHS themselves, they sacrifice quality for quantity, with many junior doctors working upwards of 90 hours plus a week, which is not only unbelievably unhealthy but also illegal. There are also extreme cases of the NHS denying service to patients because of the cost. If these measures weren’t taken the NHS would be under a massive strain and possibly not be able to cope. During the pandemic we saw perfect examples of the shortages within the system and how out of its depth the government actually was. Medical staff were working even more ridiculous hours and were not compensated appropriately. The 3% pay rise allocated was utterly disappointing, and many health care professionals felt used.


This is when the debate of privatisation all started again. However, contrary to popular belief this is not a new idea, parts of the NHS has been privatised since as early as the 1980’s and in 2012 the Health Care and Social Act made the situation a lot more drastic. The main reasons for the act was because there was an increasing demand on the NHS because of Britain’s ageing population, and a general sense of insecurity with the British economy at the time. The Act reformed the NHS due to the need for change and meant that patients could pick their own treatments from the private sector, public sector or a third party, ‘as long they meet NHS costs’. There was also a change within the system, where instead of the NHS commissioning Board approving services it was now down to clinicians and clinician commissioning groups. The general pattern within the Act was an elevation of the stress of running the NHS from the government. Many were appalled by blatant enabling of privatisation.


But what is privatisation and is it that bad?


Privatisation does not mean that patients will have to start paying to see the doctor, it actually has very little to do with the patient at all. It actually means that the government will outsource services from the private sector and pay for it from their £178 billion budget. This reduces wait times, strain on doctors and means that patients can also get better quality of service. In 2019 a survey was done by IHPN to figure out the publics opinion on privatisation, 67% of the public said that poorly performing public sector services should be able to be replaced with the private sector service as long as it is free at point of use and is of a good quality.  


Furthermore, this will totally reduce the wait times for patients and increase the overall efficiency of the NHS. More patients can be seen in less time and overall that will mean healthcare professionals can spend more one- to- one time with each patient. It also allows patients to chose their own treatment plans and be more in-charge of their own healthcare. Although, there are already complains as the private sector tend to only take on the easier jobs, that’s are low risk and planned and leave the NHS to deal with more complicated services. Dr Louise Irvine, of the National Health Action Party, said in an interview with BBC that “ private companies cherry-pick … That can cause real problems”.


On the other hand, because privately run companies are interested in profit first, there will be competition within companies to innovate the best technologies and this will help to advance medicine within the UK. Already the UK has some of the best statistics for cancer survival in the world, which can increase with programs like Bupa’s gamma life radio surgery centre that is in Cromwell Hospital, that the NHS simply could not afford to develop itself. However, these companies can charge however much they want for their services, this one for instance costs the NHS £7,300 per patient 


Currently, the privatisation in the industry might be doing more damage to the NHS. For example, the private sector doesn’t train nurses or doctor instead they leave that cost and strain up to the NHS, but once trained the private sectors employs a large portion of these medical professionals which causes staff shortages and makes the NHS struggles even more. But if the NHS is fully privatised then the responsibilities that the NHS currently carries alone will be spread among the companies it outsources services to.


It’s important to remember that this is not an alien idea. Change can cause uncertainty, but if we look to the system now, GP practices and Dentistries are all private and contracted by the NHS. Its just like hiring a consultant instead of using an in-house employee. Our rail system in the UK is already privatised, though profit is maximised, it also means that there is competition between companies, therefore customer comfortability, efficiency are also maximised. 


In conclusion, from the perspective of doctors and the patients privatisation will have a massive improvement on their experience of the NHS. Doctors will be payed more but will have better regulated hours and patients will receive a better quality of care and won’t have to wait ridiculous times to receive it. Unfortunately though it might be more expensive for the government and the budget might not be enough. But if the government stopped spending tens of millions of pounds, £73 million to be precise, on broken apps then perhaps it could work.