By Mike Rowley
Thames Valley Strategic Health Authority plan to use Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust as a pilot project for private management in the NHS. If NHS management are successful here there will be one county-wide PCT, run by the private sector. Other Heath Authorities (and the Government) will be looking to do the same elsewhere in the country.
Plans to privatise services provided by the PCTs by 2008 were announced by the government in July.
Among the bidders in Oxfordshire are Group Four (who used to run nearby Campsfield immigration prison!) and United Health Care (a US firm).
The Government would give whoever wins the bid the responsibility of “maximising patient choice”, i.e. they are likely to buy-in beds and operations from the private sector. This diverts more funds from NHS hospitals and services. What follows? A sharp round of NHS service cuts as managers try to make the NHS profitabile.
Another story lies behind the proposals In Oxfordshire.“Oxfordshire health” has a multi-million-pound deficit, despite most of its local hospitals running on budget.
What happened was the central commissioning authority “bid for” more money than the Department of Health was prepared to give them. The individual PCTs budgeted based on an assumption that they would be getting more money than they were being given, and “bought in” health services from the various “providers” on that basis. Result: chaos.
Because the health service is split into little "bargaining units", no-one knew what anyone else was doing.
Oxfordshire Save Our NHS, part of a national campaign, is fighting these plans and will be meeting on 22 October in Headington Parish Hall, Dunstan Road.