I would like to start by saying that I believe fully in the NHS and its values. I would like to reassure you that the Government is committed to protecting the NHS and that is why NHS spending has increased every year since 2010. Furthermore, ministers have guaranteed that it will always provide treatment free at the point of need, regardless of ability to pay. Neither I nor the Government will ever privatise the NHS.
The use of private providers and the voluntary sector in the delivery of NHS services is not a new concept. The Labour Government between 1997 and 2010 introduced the independent sector and competition into the NHS. The focus throughout the NHS is to provide the highest quality of care to patients and I am pleased to report that is completely shared by this Government. You may find it of interest to know that the use of private providers in the NHS represents just over seven pence in every pound the NHS spends, an increase of just two and a half pence in the pound since 2010 and a slower rate of growth than under Labour. Charities and social enterprises, such as Macmillan Nurses, continue to play an important role in the NHS, as they have done for many years.
The NHS is undoubtedly something to be valued and protected which is why I support the Government's commitment to increase NHS spending in England by a minimum of £8 billion in real terms over the next five years. This will enable the NHS to implement its own plan for the future to further improve health care in the Five Year Forward View.
I hope this clarifies my position that competition in the NHS should act as a means to an end in improving services for patients, never as an end in itself.