THE NHS should use private companies and the third sector in future if that is best for patients, the departing head of the region’s Foundation Trust has claimed.
Jules Preston is stepping down from his role as chairman of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust next month.
The former head of Sunderland Trade and Enterprise Council said he still strongly believes in the NHS.
But he said investment from businesses and charities could be a way forward for the beleaguered service, provided care remains free to patients.
Mr Preston said: “There is a political battle going on, as to whether there is privatisation of the NHS by the back door.
“My comment on that, and I hope it is not political, is that providing we can continue to deliver services to the patient, based on NHS principles and standards at the point of delivery, it is not important that everything should be delivered by what we would call a traditional NHS hospital.
“If the best provision is by the third sector or a private company, the only thing that is important is that we provide the best possible care for the patient, funded by the NHS.
“Monopolies don’t usually deliver the best in any industry.”
“No job can always be perfect,” Mr Preston added. “I do not believe there is a doctor in the NHS that sets out to do something wrong.
“We don’t hear about the 99% of great work which is done, only the mistakes.”
But Mr Preston’s comments angered campaigners from groups such as Keep Our NHS Free North East, which last month battled against the takeover of a Newcastle GP practice by a private firm.
Several doctors resigned when management of the Grainger Medical Group in Benwell was handed over to Care UK, which is owned by a private equity fund.
Paul Baker, one of the campaigners, said any form of privatisation signalled the beginning of the end for the NHS.