The NHS has always relied heavily on the private sector. When it was set up the GPs were not nationalised. They remain to this day as independent contractors working for the NHS, but some can and do undertake their own private work as well. Hospital Consultants may also undertake work in the private sector in addition to their NHS duties. All the drugs supplied to the NHS come from profit making competing companies. For many years governments of all three parties have used private sector cleaners, caterers, maintenance services, builders and professional services consultants on a large scale.
Labour during its last period in office widened the scope of private sector work, by encouraging private sector providers of clinical services to come forward to help clear waiting lists and backlogs of work.
The Lib Dems website acknowledged all this and supported the use of charities and private sector companies where this can strengthen choice, raise quality, and keep costs under control. They said:
“Focus the NHS on the results it actually delivers for patients by allowing the best people – whether from the public, independent or charitable sectors – to deliver the care which patients needs”
“Both the Conservative (p27) and Lib Dem (p 42)Manifestos promised that new social enterprises would be created to deliver NHS services. The Conservative (p45) and Lib Democrat (p42) manifestos promised that all types of providers – NHS, voluntary or independent sector- would be free to deliver NHS services.
“We want patients to be able to choose to be treated wherever they want to be – whether it’s an NHS hospital, or one in the voluntary or private sectors. This is because more choice and more competition will lead to benefits for patients”
“The NHS has never been a single, national organisation. It has always been made up of hundreds and thousands of different organisations and individuals – many of them from the independent sector…”