Owen Smith to target Tories over threat of NHS privatisation

Owen Smith MP

Labour leadership hopeful Owen Smith is to hit out at the threat of creeping privatisation in the NHS, highlighting Department of Health accounts showing that spending on private-sector NHS providers has doubled under the Conservatives.

In a speech on Monday at a campaign trail stop at Trafford General hospital in Manchester, Smith will say that a Labour government led by him would boost health spending by 4% a year, suggesting there is “a secret Tory plan to privatise the NHS”.

Department of Health accounts published on the last day before parliament’s summer recess showed the spend on private-sector NHS providers more than doubled, from more than £4bn in 2009-10 to £8.7bn in 2015-16.

Smith’s early campaign has been dogged by accusations that he lobbied for further private-sector involvement in the NHS during his time as policy chief at the pharmaceuticals companies Pfizer. During his career as a lobbyist for the US firm, Smith had called on ministers to improve incentives for the pharmaceutical industry.

His speech on Monday will attempt to divert attention to his time as shadow health minister, saying that he “fought the Tories’ top-down reorganisation of the NHS line by line”. He will say: “I warned that it would lead to an explosion of privatisation – and that is exactly what has happened.”

Smith, a former shadow work and pensions secretary, has previously claimed it was a gross exaggeration to suggest he had campaigned for more privatisation of NHS services while at Pfizer, and suggested it had been an error for Labour to advocate greater choice over care providers.

He will focus his efforts on health policy a day after Corbyn’s announcement about plans for a national education service based on NHS principles.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jessica Elgot, for theguardian.com on Monday 15th August 2016 00.01 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010