A union leader has accused health chiefs of conducting a 'dangerous experiment' with plans for cancer and end-of-life care in Staffordshire to be managed by private firms in deals worth £1.2 billion.
Health chiefs across the county have teamed up with experts from Macmillan Cancer Support to overhaul the way services are managed with 10-year contracts worth £689m and £535m up for grabs.
Virgin, Care UK, Ramsay Health and other private firms are said to be interested in bidding for the contracts in a move which has been dubbed as ‘privatisation by the back door’.
However Unison assistant general secretary Karen Jennings, voiced serious concerns about the proposals.
Miss Jennings, a former nurse, said: “This is beyond a dangerous experiment – it’s treacherous – a privatisation too far even for this Government.
“We are not talking about peripheral services. The contract is for end-of-life care and the broad range of cancer services, including the treatment and care of children suffering from cancer. And none of the companies in the running have the experience of dealing with this breadth of services."
She told a public meeting in Burton-upon-Trent that the commissioning groups were potentially handing over over all decision-making on these crucial services to private companies.
"This is much bigger than just asking private companies to provide a service, this is asking them to design the whole system. With profit as the main driving force, how can it not lead to problems?"
Andrew Donald, chief executive of both Cannock Chase and Stafford and Surrounds commissioning groups, said the Transforming Cancer and End of Life Care programmes were about bringing services together to create an integrated approach.
"Patients have told us about not knowing who to turn to in a crisis, leading to inappropriate and unnecessary admissions into hospital," he said.
"We have heard from patients and carers who have been lost in the system, or who have struggled to get the support when and where they need it – this is clearly not acceptable.
"It's about putting the patients at the centres of the process – it is not about privatisation."