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Health secretary denies privatisation claim

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has insisted his government has no desire to privatise the NHS, after being challenged by a NHS doctor during a phone-in.

Jeremy HuntMr Hunt, who was taking questions during a phone-in on the LBC radio station, was questioned by a cardiology registrar who said he feared recent health service reforms were opening the way for privatisation.

The doctor, who only gave his first name, said the trust he worked for was due to put cardiology outpatient services up for tender, adding that such services often helped fund less profitable parts of the trust.

Mr Hunt said that there was ‘no agenda’ to privatise the NHS and that he did not believe it would happen.

He said: ‘There have always been parts of the NHS where they have used the private sector. The market share of the private sector was 5 per cent of all NHS spend when we came to office it has actually increased to 6 per cent, so there has been a small increase.’

He added: ‘What those reforms [to the NHS] did was they gave that budget to local GPs and [they] are not, on the whole, saying we want to spend it with the private sector. 

‘I think it is really important that people in my position are completely neutral and we back what doctors say is the right way to spend money because that is what is in the interest of patients.’

The doctor added: ‘I am not a conspiracy theorist, I am simply someone working on the frontline with the expectations — and the targets set up for us are unachievable.’

Mr Hunt responded he understood that those working in the NHS were under pressure, owing to increased demand for services when the deficit meant it was not possible to raise budgets in line with these increases.

The BMA opposes further privatisation of the NHS.