Private firms providing "one hospital for the price of two" are exposing taxpayers to huge financial risks, a leading trade union has warned.
Unison says that former government ministers and civil servants are getting top jobs in private companies that had contracts in areas they were formerly responsible for.
As a result, it says, the public service industry is now a "murky world" where massive amounts of money are being spent to create a "sympathetic" environment for increased privatisation.
In its report, The Rise and Rise of the Public Services Industry, Unison says that privatising public services is not good value, and that sectors such as care homes are at risk from the current global financial meltdown.
Dave Prentis, Unison's general secretary, said: "The private finance initiative and public private partnerships are costing the country a fortune. It is a case of buying one hospital for the price of two.
"Most of the public is blissfully unaware of the vast scale of private-sector involvement in public services.
"The taxpayer would be rightly dismayed to learn that we have switched from a public sector that owns assets such as hospitals to one that often leases them, paying a high price for doing so."