Hello everyone and welcome to this episode of TheMedicalGeeks Podcast. Today we will be looking at NHS privatisation. This is a long topic so we have decided to split it into two episodes.

Today’s episode will discuss the concept of privatisation, background and history of privatisation in the NHS. The next episode will discuss the pros and cons of NHS privatisation from different points of view.

For now, let’s get on with our episode, I am your host Makeen and let’s go!


The topic of NHS privatisation has been increasingly discussed over the past few years. With the coronavirus outbreak, this kind of discussion may be absent from the political arena for a while, but, it’s only a matter of time before it’s back.

Given the relevance of this topic to healthcare, anyone in the healthcare profession will be affected by decisions surrounding these areas. Therefore, it goes without saying that from being an aspiring medical student, to being an expert consultant, you need to have some level of awareness in this topic.

In addition, you are likely to be asked about this at the interview. Whether it is an MMI circuit that you go through or a transitional panel interview, you need to be aware of this topic.

Use this episode as a starting point for your learning and then expand out by reading research papers or news reports. These are usually reliable options to quote during interviews.

What does privatisation mean?

First of all, let’s establish some basic information. Privatisation of the NHS means that the service will no longer be run by governmental/public funded institutions. Instead, it will be run by private companies and care providers.

Is privatisation all the same?

There are two main types of privatisation in healthcare. It is important to make a distinction between these two types when discussing privatising the NHS in an interview. This will avoid confusion and show that you really do know what you are talking about.

The first type is where people have to pay for their healthcare. For example, in the USA people use this type of private healthcare.* Basically, if you want access to treatment you have to pay for it to hospitals and healthcare providers. However, you don’t have to do this directly, as it is usually done in the form of an insurance company. Different insurance companies and insurance policies cover different levels of healthcare plans and treatments.

The second type is where healthcare is still free to access by the public. However, the care provided is outsourced to private companies. There are many reasons why this is done. For example, the NHS uses this method in some parts of the country. This is to reduce waiting lists volumes in NHS facilities; furthermore, there are some high-end treatments that only some specific private companies can provide. In this case, it is the NHS paying for this treatment, not the person receiving the treatment, but the healthcare received is still considered private because it is provided by a private institution.

*Please note that there are some programmes in the USA that give people basic access to healthcare, such as Obamacare.

History of privatisation in the NHS

As mentioned above, the NHS operates some level of private healthcare, this has been going on for quite a while. It is mainly the second type of privatisation that the NHS has been operating on.

The number of private firms running NHS services has been steadily increasing. For example, between 2006 and 2013 the number of patients treated by non-NHS private healthcare firms rose from 0.5% to 2.2%. Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of NHS services is still run by the NHS itself.

In 1990, there were some reforms done to the NHS. A new concept was introduced: separating healthcare providers and purchasers. This meant that healthcare authorities had to choose a care supplier to provide care for their local beneficiaries.

Moreover, in 2002 Clinical Commissioning Groups, CCGs, were introduced. These allowed private healthcare firms to bid to provide healthcare treatments for NHS patients.

This is a brief overview of privatisation of the NHS and its history. Check out our next episode where we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of privatising the NHS.

In the meantime stay safe, I am your host Makeen and Goodbye.

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