Mutualisation Poses New Privatisation Threat to NHS

UNISON is warning that the Government’s plans to change NHS trusts into ‘mutuals’ would turn back the clock to before the National Health Service existed when there was no consistency in access to services or care quality.  

Seven NHS trusts in England are currently taking part in the Government’s ‘Mutuals in Healthcare Pathfinder’ programme, including three in the North West: Tameside Hospital, Cheshire and Wirral Partnership and Liverpool Heart and Chest.  The Government has handed £1m to consultants to investigate the potential benefits of and barriers to NHS trusts leaving the public sector and becoming ‘mutuals’.  UNISON is very concerned that mutual status is likely to be a stepping stone to private companies taking over health services.

Amy Barringer, UNISON North West’s Head of Health said: 

“Most health trusts are under serious financial pressure and if they were mutuals they would have to fend for themselves.  In the likely event of a mutual provider coming under financial pressure there is the very real threat of it collapsing or being taken over by the private sector.  Francis Maude, the Cabinet Minister responsible for this policy, has said that mutualisation is a form of privatisation.  We think mutualisation is a Trojan horse.

“Before the NHS was created , there was a patchwork of mutual organisations providing health services.  Our grandparents’ generation know that this was wholly inadequate as people could not access high-quality, consistent services.  We must not let this Government turn back the clock to the 1930s.

“Mutualisation is sometimes presented as if it were about a more co-operative work culture but this can best be achieved within the NHS.  Indeed, the Norfolk and Norwich Trust recently pulled out of the national pathfinder programme precisely because their primary interest was in improving staff engagement.  The Norfolk and Suffolk Mental Health Trust have also announced their withdrawal from the project because it might be a distraction from the priorities of improving service quality and staff morale.

“The tide is turning against mutualisation and privatisation.  The part-mutual Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire is in the news because the private company who run it – Circle – are walking away from their contract.  The quality of the care at the hospital was strongly criticised by the CQC and staff morale is very low.  It’s increasingly clear that mutualisation and privatisation hold no solutions for the pressures faced by the NHS.

“We are encouraging our members in the trusts involved to voice their concerns about mutualisation and are hopeful that more trusts will withdraw from this project and that this dangerous agenda can be stopped.”

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