An "absolute limit" on the use of the private sector in the NHS should be enshrined in the new NHS constitution, says health union UNISON on the final day of the consultation on the constitution (17 October 2008).
In its submission to the Department of Health (DH), the union is calling for the overwhelming majority of services to be retained inhouse and delivered by staff directly employed by the NHS.
Karen Jennings, UNISON Head of Health said: "The key to delivering high-quality patient care is to build up capacity in the NHS, not rely on more expensive private treatment, which is why we want a limit on the use of the private sector.
"As it stands, the constitution simply says that private companies should 'take account' of the principles within it, but that is not sufficient in itself to preserve the values and ethos of the NHS."
While the union welcomes the idea of the constitution as a means of protecting the core values of the NHS, it says the need to have a level playing field with all providers of NHS services covered by the same standards should be included in the constitution.
The union's submission to the DH suggests measures to ensure that the rights and pledges of the constitution are backed up with a genuine commitment to the NHS across the whole healthcare sector.
Union's call comes on the day that health minister Ann Keen was confirmed as the new ministerial lead for the NHS Constitution.
The draft Constitution was published on 30 June and is a key part of Lord Darzi's review of the NHS. Over the summer, every NHS authority has consulted with local people to gather their feedback. The consultation closes today and responses will be reviewed to develop a final constitution.
Commenting on the NHS constitution, Ann Keen said: "I look forward to leading the process of creating a constitution, which will safeguard the future of the NHS. Our focus over the next few weeks will be to make sure all the feedback we have gathered through consultation over the summer is used to produce a constitution that reflects the needs of a modern NHS and patients."
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