By Ian Dipple Friday 11 January 2013 Updated: 14/01 11:47
HEALTH services in Redditch and Bromsgrove will not be routinely opened up to private companies, the man leading the new commissioning group for the area has pledged.
Dr Jonathan Wells, chair of Redditch and Bromsgrove Clinical Commissioning Group, said while they would not rule out using the private sector where it was better for patients, they were committed to protecting the NHS.
The reassurance came during a meeting with local members of national campaign group 38 Degrees to discuss the Government's reorganisation of the health service, which from April will see doctors in Redditch and Bromsgrove take control of a £180million budget for buying in healthcare services.
There are concerns the changes will lead to creeping privatisation of the NHS and a petition with more than 600 signatures signed by local residents was handed to Dr Wells calling for the CCG not to break-up healthcare services and allow them to be taken over by irresponsible private companies. The group also asked for amendments to be made to the CCG's constitution to enshrine their commitment to protect services in law.
Dr Wells said changes by the previous Labour government had already introduced more of the private sector into the NHS, such as giving patients the choice to have their operation in a private hospital but for the same cost as, and paid for by, the NHS.
He added they had already used the private sector to benefit patients by using physiotherapists outside the NHS to increase capacity following a rise in the number of people in Redditch and Bromsgrove with musculoskeletal problems.
"We fully support the NHS and want the NHS to remain free at the point of use but that's not to say other people can't provide services that are very suitable for our patients," he said.
"The only reason we did that for physiotherapy was the local hospital could not provide the capacity. We are eyes open to this, we don't want lots of private companies coming in.
"The alternative is to leave this in the hands of managers who don't have an understanding of what we are trying to do. I'm not a politician, I'm involved in this because I am passionate about improving healthcare for our patients and believe we have an opportunity to do that."
Dr Wells added he would take the amendments put forward by campaigners to the CCG's governing board for consideration.
Janet King, of the local 38 degrees group, said they would continue to campaign for the retention of efficient local services and would be unofficially monitoring the CCG's progress.
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