Section 75 requires commissioners to put out to tender anything and everything that could be provided by a body other than the NHS. This is in the context, of course, of the 1st of April, on which date the Health and Social Care Act 2012 came into effect. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine research fellow Lucy Reynolds has described the act as the ‘aircraft of privatisation’, and Section 75 as the ‘engine that will allow take off’.
The role of the private sector in the provision of healthcare services has always generated strong emotions, on both sides of the debate. Some claim that independent providers will be more adept at the tendering process, which will greatly impact who wins the tendering process, regardless of actual quality of service. Some are upset that rights granted to private providers would force government to provide compensation if services are subsequently transferred back to the NHS.
Chaired by Ivana Bartoletti, award-winning NHS worker and London Labour candidate for the 2014 European elections, attendees debated the extent to which privatisation is beneficial or harmful. All seemed to agree that it did matter who provided healthcare, but many disagreed as to the ideal balance between public and private sector involvement. Some felt that competition outside of NHS trusts is necessary to trigger innovation, whilst others felt that a for-profit provider could never, in the long-term, provide better value to patients and tax-payers. Everyone was required to question pre-existing opinions about if, how and why privatisation is such a contentious issue.
An exit poll taken at the end of the Health Network debate showed that a majority of attendees rejected the motion at hand.
In the end, the Lords failed in their attempt to overturn Section 75. Outside of the Houses of Parliament, the Fabians, individuals, families and communities across Britain will continue to debate the ideal structure of the NHS.