The British Medical Association (BMA) has launched a campaign against the commercialisation of the NHS – under which many treatments are completed by the private sector.
Promoting the Look After Our NHS scheme, the BMA said private companies were paid for planned operations and procedures on NHS patients which did not go ahead to the tune of £200m.
An official report found that only 85% of the operations contracted for with the Independent Sector Treatment Centres went ahead as fewer patients opted for private treatment than anticipated and instead preferred to wait for NHS surgery.
The news came alongside figures which showed the number of senior managers in the NHS had increased 91% since 1995 while doctors and nurses were up just 35% in the same period. The BMA said the figures pointed to a health service that is wrapped-up in red tape and obsessed with the market.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA (pictured), said: "We want an NHS with patients, not profits, at its heart. The public values the NHS as a publicly provided, publicly funded service."
Mike O'Brien, the health minister, said: "We oppose the privatisation of the NHS. The government is committed to an NHS funded by taxation, with equal access to care, free at the point of use, based on clinical need and not ability to pay. We want to ensure that patients receive the best quality care and taxpayers the best value for money.
"Independent and third-sector organisations were used successfully to get down waiting lists for operations and can make a contribution to this by helping to add capacity and increase patient choice."