New government must reverse the trend towards NHS privatisation

UNISON urges ministers to think again after the consultancy behind series of failed privatisations is shut down

UNISON has welcomed the decision by NHS England to close the Strategic Projects Team (SPT), the controversial consultancy associated with many of the worst attempted privatisations of recent years.

The union is now calling on the government to learn from SPT’s mistakes and reverse the trend towards NHS privatisation.

Formed in 2009, SPT first came to prominence when it helped hand over the management of Hinchingbrooke Hospital to private operator Circle. Circle pulled out of the deal after only three years of its 10-year tenure, leaving the NHS to pick up the pieces.

SPT was also associated with botched privatisation attempts at George Eliot Hospital and Weston Area Health Trust, as well as controversial plans for cancer and end of life care in Staffordshire, which are currently paused.

Most infamously, it was involved in the Uniting Care procurement for older people’s services in Cambridge, which recently collapsed and has prompted criticism from across the sector.

UNISON had recommended that the government intervene in SBT, on numerous occasions.

Having finally listened, NHS England has noted “real concerns” about the consultancy’s work.

UNISON head of health Christina McAnea said: “Failures such as those in Cambridgeshire and at Hinchingbrooke Hospital were nothing short of total disasters, and seriously affected the quality of patient care available to local people.

“Every time a huge privatisation project fails, the taxpayer has to step in and pick up the pieces – using money which would be much better spent on patient care.

“We may still have the same secretary of state, but the formation of a new government provides the perfect opportunity for ministers to step back, take a long hard look at the huge errors made by these consultants and learn from those mistakes.

“The push for privatisation should be reversed. It’s time to end the damaging market approach to the NHS that was ushered in by the Health and Social Care Act.”