Apart from the obviously poor English! I have to admit to being addicted to these late evening programmes. I am either getting very annoyed at overtly political contributors who "spout the party line" or youngsters holding forth on matters of which they can have little or no experience. One contributor this last weekend made a series of statements which almost
resulted in something destructive flying in the general direction of the family TV. The contributor was asserting very strongly that "the government is privatising the NHS".
NO it is not!!
What is happening is that top level purchasers are "outsourcing" an increasingly wide range of services. The Key to this and therefore the difference between what is happening and privatisation is that service packages of various types and volumes are being outsourced based, in each case, on a set of contractual terms. As a result there must be competition to be awarded the contract for each particular package. This means there must be a document which defines or "specifies" the limits of each service; of real importance are the standards of service delivery and the outcomes required. The specification and the tender, or details of offer to deliver, are then incorporated in to the contract. So both the specification and the tender becomes a set of contractual terms.
Services are thereby delivered under contract. If there is a failure, the remedy is simple – breach of contract action and a loss to the provider. Privatisation, as we have seen with the energy industry allows each supplier to "get on with it". The contractual demands and remedies do not exist.
When arguing against the outsourcing of NHS services under contractual terms one has to ask – would the events reported in the North Staffordshire hospitals and in other hospitals have occurred if contractual terms had been in place? Yes, it requires skills and high level training in procurement to commission effectively, covering all of the possibilities. But it would be really good for the health and care sector as a whole if journalists with limited knowledge of the sector as it is today could be challenged when they confuse out-sourcing with privatisation!