THE “biggest act of privatisation the NHS has ever seen” is under way, Labour claimed yesterday – revealing nearly 400 community services are up for grabs.

The party released a dossier listing contracts worth £250m that are being signed from this week, after the passing of the controversial Health Act earlier this year.

They include potential selloffs across the North-East and North Yorkshire, of everything from wheelchair services and foot treatment to diagnostic tests, adult hearing and psychological therapies.

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Private firms including Specsavers, Boots and Alliance Healthcare will bid for the contracts, alongside NHS hospital trusts, local medical centres and GP surgeries.

Andy Burnham, Labour’s health spokesman, condemned the “reckless” sell-off, saying: “Be warned – Cameron’s Great NHS Carve- Up is coming to your community.

“As we speak, contracts are being signed in the single biggest act of privatisation the NHS has ever seen – 398 NHS community services all over England, worth over a quarter of a billion pounds, out to open tender.

“A forced privatisation, ordered from the top, and a secret privatisation – details hidden under ‘commercial confidentiality’ – but exposed today, in Labour’s NHS Check.”

Mr Burnham said soon-tobe- scrapped primary care trusts (PCTs) had each been ordered to put three services out to tender to ‘any qualified provider’ (AQP), under the Act.

Labour used freedom of information laws to obtain details of the tenders in each area, including, in some cases, the value of the contracts.

The largest in this region is a £3.2m contest to run wheelchair services across North Yorkshire.

Mr Burnham acknowledged that some NHS services were out to tender by Labour, but insisted his “NHS first” policy meant they were only privatised as a last resort.

In stark contrast, he told The Northern Echo: “The AQP policy puts services straight out to the market – with a clear agenda that private- sector providers should be chosen.”

Mr Burnham urged ministers to halt further sell-offs – covering 39 services, worth £1bn – until a review had been carried out into the effects on the NHS.

Labour has vowed to repeal the Health Act, but would keep the GP-led clinical commissioning groups that will replace PCTS.

But Dan Poulter, a Conservative health minister, accused Mr Burnham of hypocrisy, saying: “Charities, social enterprises and independent providers already play an important part in providing the best care for patients, under a system that was introduced by the last Labour Government.

“Labour must answer the question: if it was good for patients when they were in government, why is it not now?”

SERVICES OUT TO TENDER AND THEIR VALUE

County Durham
Anti-coagulation: not known
Adult hearing: £266,000
Podiatry: £1.1m
Gateshead/South Tyneside/Sunderland
Anti-coagulation: £1.1m
Adult Hearing: £2.7m
Podiatry: £3.1m
Hartlepool/Middlesbrough/Redcar and Cleveland
Adult hearing: £1.3m
Psychological Therapies: not known
Newcastle
Dermatology: not known
Anti-coagulation therapy: not known
Diagnostics: not known
(non-obstetric ultrasound)
North Yorkshire & York
Wheelchair services: £3.2m
Diagnostics: £1.1m
Podiatry: £1.2m
Stockton
Adult hearing: £266,000
Psychological Therapies: not known
Lymphodema: not known