The 2012 Health and Social Care Act gave away control of the NHS to an unaccountable body called NHS England (NHSE) . The significance of this is that it enables NHS privatisation to move swiftly without oversight by government or the public. Under this new arrangement, far-reaching plans for wholesale privatisation are being implemented (See Big Picture - Post 2012 NHS Plans ), It is also facilitating the ongoing piecemeal privatisation of various services up and down the country.
In March 2019 we were presented with another very stark example of NHSE's ideological commitment to NHS privatisation when it awarded a 7-year contract for PET-CT (Positron Emission Tomography - Computed Tomography) scans at Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) to a company called InHealth. This was direct privatisation of part of the NHS, and took place effectively without public consultation.
InHealth is part of InHealth UK Holdings Ltd, which is owned by The Damask Trust. In 2017 InHealth reported revenues of £108.6-million, making a profit of £2-million. Oxford University's Professor of Oncology, Dr Adrian Harris, pointed out that all profits from scans from private patients and funded trials will go to InHealth; not to the hospital where the staff and scanners are. A local Oxford GP, Dr Helen Salisbury, explained the longer term threat of the contract:
Currently radiologists are part of a multidisciplinary team who discuss and plan treatment for patients. If the NHS does not provide the service, how will we train the next generation of radiologists?
The contract awarded to InHealth impacts upon patents throughout Oxfordshire. Patients in Oxford itself will be seen at the Churchill Hospital, who's PET-CT unit will be subcontracted by InHealth. But patients located further away, near other hospitals, will be scanned using mobile scanners in their hospital car park. Author George Monbiot summed up the situation:
Many of the staff had objected to a decision by the National Health Service [NHS England] to privatise the hospital's cancer scanning. They complained that the scanners the private company was offering are less sensitive than the hospital's own machines. Privatisation, they said, would put patients at risk. In response, as the Guardian revealed last week, NHS England threatened to sue the hospital for libel if its staff continued to criticise the decision.
OUH is the first to have its PET-CT services privatised following the NHSE decision in 2016 to open PET-CT services to competitive tender. Many more world-class NHS facilities are now at risk.