Research reveals divided opinion over private sector

MPs expect the private sector to play a greater role in healthcare provision in the future, a recent poll has shown.

The survey also revealed that younger and Conservative MPs are more likely to support a greater role for the private sector.

The poll of 150 MPs, conducted by Comres on behalf of BMI Healthcare, was commissioned to improve understanding of what MPs think about the future of healthcare in the UK.

Andrew Hawkins, Chief Executive of Comres, said: “The results help progress what, in the run-up to an election, is an important debate about the future of health provision in the UK. I do not believe there are many in the private healthcare sector that would support a switch to the US model. The UK already has a growing partnership between the public and the private healthcare sectors and we are pleased that so many MPs take a pragmatic view about how such a partnership can be further developed and how it can be used to meet the health needs of an increasingly ageing population.”

The poll showed that, of those surveyed, 72% of MPs born before 1950 believed that the current NHS model is sustainable for the next 60 years, but only 42% of MPs born after 1960 agreed.

There was also a regional split of views on this issue – 82% of MPs from the North believed the NHS is sustainable against 52% in the South.

Regarding NHS use of private hospitals, 77% of Conservatives, 47% of Labour and 55% of Lib Dem MPs agreed that if it reduced waiting times, the NHS should fund patients’ treatment through private providers.

A majority of Conservative MPs also supported the running of NHS hospitals by private providers where minimum standards of care are not met; co-payment, whereby patients will pay for part of their care privately; and income tax relief on private healthcare fees. In contrast, few Lib Dem and Labour MPs were in favour of these.

Mr Fawcett added: “In my view, the private sector is not advocating a root and branch reconstruction of health provision in this country, rather measures to widen patient choice and improve patient services and outcomes as part of a closer public-private partnership.”

General Healthcare Group is the parent company of BMI Healthcare, a private healthcare provider with acute care private patient hospitals and outpatient centres in 65 locations around the country and over 2,900 beds.