A photo of a protest calling for an end to NHS outsourcing. Campaigners are holding signs which read "NHS privatisation kills". The protest took place at a time when there are moves to use the private sector to clear the NHS backlog

New polling has found that only one in four people support clearing the NHS backlog by paying private providers to perform NHS operations. A majority of the public – 57 per cent – want the government to instead invest directly in the NHS. The poll was conducted by Survation and commissioned by anti-privatisation group We Own It.

Both the Tories and Labour have said they wish to use private healthcare providers to clear NHS waiting lists. Writing in the Guardian in December, Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting argued that Labour would “be using spare capacity in the private sector to bring down waiting lists” and that “had a Labour government been in office this year, hundreds of thousands more patients would have been treated on the NHS in private hospitals.”

Survation also asked whether people were concerned about outsourcing NHS services to private companies. Two thirds of respondents said they were concerned about this, the same proportion that said they wanted to see the NHS reinstated as a fully public service.

The polling comes after a study released last year found that between 2014 and 2019, there were 557 excess deaths that are a result of outsourcing of NHS services. Survation’s research is also being released after 557 people gathered in Parliament Square on February 25 to mourn those whose lives have been lost.

Cat Hobbs, Director at We Own It said: “The British public want our NHS to belong to us. They’re appalled at the cuts and privatisation that have led to excess deaths and the hollowing out of the NHS. Now this Oxford University study shows that outsourcing literally means people are dying unnecessarily due to poor care.

“Outsourcing also weakens the NHS by reducing its capacity to respond to pressures. This – combined with the private sector competing for staff – is making the current crisis worse and contributing to record waiting lists and delays.

“We want our NHS back, reinstated as a fully public service, and with proper investment. We’re proud of our NHS and don’t want to copy the American model where mortality rates are so much higher.”

The Parliament Square action was organised by We Own It, which is also coordinating the End NHS Privatisation, Save Lives campaign. The campaign is encouraging people to lobby the NHS locally and call on it to end outsourcing of services.

The campaign is backed by actor and comedian Stephen Fry. He said, “We own it. It’s ours. The NHS belongs to us. Our grandparents, great grandparents, parents, and we ourselves made it what it is. We contributed to it. We paid for it.”

A long-standing supporter of the NHS and its staff, he called the NHS “one of the proudest things Britain has ever done” and lamented that “it’s now under threat from cynical, greedy, destructive people who mustn’t be allowed to get away with this.”

Survation surveyed 1,968 residents in the UK over the age of 18 via online panel. The results are weighted to provide a representative sample of the UK population.

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