In a preview of his party conference speech, Burnham promised to end the ‘any qualified provider’ (AQP) policy, which he said is now causing wholesale NHS privatisation.
More controversially, he outlined plans to have local authorities lead NHS commissioning and NHS hospitals provide social and mental health care.
Pledging a return to the NHS as ‘preferred provider’ of services, he said the private and voluntary sectors would “play a supporting role to a publicly owned, publicly accountable NHS”.
Burnham noted, from information about NHS tenders obtained through freedom of information requests, that the AQP rules now in operation were leading to rapid privatisation of many NHS services.
“This week the AQP contracts are being signed with private companies,” he said. “It is very difficult to find out what is going on. Who they are, how much is being spent. They cite commercial confidentiality but that is not good enough.”
In particular, he argued, hospitals reserving up to 49% of their beds for private patients from 1 October will “damage the character and culture” of the NHS.
While Labour did not intend to exclude the private sector from NHS service provision, he stated, it would remove the new “competitive structure” that hospitals and providers “have to work within”.
To achieve this, it would replace the CCGs with a commissioning system led by local government – retaining local control but removing the commercial element.
In addition, instead of reducing the role of hospitals, Labour would involve them in providing social and mental health care for the most vulnerable people.
Labour leader Ed Milliband has already pledged to repeal the Health and Social Care Act.