Skip to Content

Survey of MPs for BMI Hospitals

Survey of MPs on the role of the private sector in the NHS, conducted for BMI Hospitals

Date Published: 22 Aug 2009

Categories: Health | Policy Makers | Public Sector | Social | UK



A survey of MPs published today has revealed that they expect a greater role for the private sector in helping the NHS in meeting the UK’s healthcare needs.

The survey also revealed that the predicted new intake of largely younger MPs at the next election will be expected to support a greater role for the private sector.

The poll of 150 MPs, conducted by COMRES on behalf of BMI Healthcare, which is owned by General Healthcare Group, the UK’s leading private hospital group, was commissioned to help better understand what MPs thought about the future of healthcare in the UK. By focussing on a more integrated dual economy in health, the private sector can see and plan beyond the emotive arguments driven by the current comparisons of the UK and US health models and work more closely with the NHS.

“The survey results show that, behind the political rhetoric, younger MPs tend to have a more practical view about a closer working relationship between the public and private healthcare sectors. This is perhaps driven by their appreciation that, if nothing changes, it is their generation and those of their children that will be funding massive increase in public health spending as the population ages and the number of tax payers diminishes,” commented Adrian Fawcett, Chief Executive of General Healthcare Group.

The poll shows that 72% of MPs born before 1950 believe that the current NHS model of care free at the point of delivery, and paid for by general taxation, is sustainable for the next 60 years, despite the fact that the NHS budget has increased by 150% since 2000.

However, only 42% of MPs born after 1960 agree. There is also a regional split of views on this issue – 82% of MPs from the North believed the NHS is sustainable against 52% in the South.

There seems to be a greater degree of consensus between the parties about the principle of the private sector delivering NHS care:

NHS use of private hospitals: 77% of Conservatives, 47% of Labour and 55% of Lib Dem MPs agreed that if it reduced waiting times, the NHS should fund patients’ treatment through private providers.

Equipment sharing: if NHS hospital equipment is under-used (e.g. MRI scanners), private healthcare providers should be allowed to share equipment: 89% of Conservatives, 49% of Labour and 61% of Lib Dem MPs agreed.

There are, however, significant differences of view between the parties about how the private sector should work more closely with the NHS:

·         Quality standards: when asked whether private providers should be invited to run NHS hospitals where such hospitals fail to meet minimum standards of care, 84% of Conservatives and 30% of Lib Dems agreed, compared with only 17% of Labour MPs.

·         Co-payment: 67% of Conservatives agreed that patients should receive treatment partly paid for by the NHS and partly funded privately to increase their chance of receiving timely healthcare. 36% of Lib Dems agreed with this statement and 14% of Labour MPs.

A series of questions about measures to increase the ability of the public to choose wider healthcare provision if they so wished revealed a more stark contrast in Party positions:

·         Introducing income tax relief on standard rate income tax for private medical insurance:

o Supported by 66% of Conservative MPs, 5%of Lib Dems and 1% of Labour MPs

·         Introduction of tax relief on private healthcare fees:

o Supported by 55% of Conservative MPs and 1% of Labour MPs

Andrew Hawkins, Chief Executive of ComRes, said: “These results show that Conservatives and younger MPs are more sympathetic to the role private sector companies can play in the NHS than their older, non-Tory counterparts. Given that we can expect a relatively high turnover of MPs at the next General Election – perhaps more than a third of the House – we should expect that the direction of travel for the House is towards more support for private sector involvement in the health service.”

Adrian Fawcett added: “The results help progress what, in the run-up to an election, is an important debate about the future of health provision in the UK. I do not believe there are many in the private healthcare sector that would support a switch to the US model. The UK already has a growing partnership between the public and the private healthcare sectors and we are pleased that so many MPs take a pragmatic view about how such a partnership can be further developed and how it can be used to meet the health needs of an increasingly ageing population.

“The NHS delivers strong core health services but the patient experience, the clinical outcomes and the timeliness of treatment can undoubtedly be further improved, if the private sector is encouraged to work more closely with the NHS to deliver reduced waiting times and improved value for money.”

Mr Fawcett added: “In my view, the private sector is not advocating a root and branch reconstruction of health provision in this country, rather measures to widen patient choice and improve patient services and outcomes as part of a closer public-private partnership.”

General Healthcare Group is the parent company of BMI Healthcare, the UK’s premier private health care provider with acute care private patient hospitals and outpatient centres in 65 locations around the country and over 2,900 beds.


For more information please contact:

Duncan Mackenzie-Reid

College Hill

+ 44 207 457 2020

Mob: 07776257170

Email: [email protected]


Jeremy Durrant

College Hill

+ 44 207 866 7883

Mob: 07792918648

Email: [email protected]


Linda Apeles

General Healthcare Group

+44 207 009 4544

[email protected]



About General Healthcare Group

General Healthcare Group is the leading independent healthcare provider in the UK. Its primary businesses are:

BMI Healthcare, the UK’s premier private health care provider with acute care private patient hospitals and outpatient centres in 65 locations around the country and over 2,900 beds. Handling over 250,000 inpatient and one million outpatient visits each year, nearly half of the procedures undertaken for private patients are of a major or complex nature.

Netcare UK, providing health care resources dedicated to NHS patients. Its facilities include mobile services for cataract procedures, a 45-bed, three-theatre unit in Manchester, a surgical centre in Stracathro and a walk-in centre in Leeds

View Press and Polls

Read More