Labour is accusing David Cameron of misleading the public over his plans to privatise the NHS in England and call for contracts putting the service “up for sale” to be frozen until after the general election.
Andy Burnham has claimed the Prime Minister was “not up front” about his intentions for reform during the 2010 campaign, leaving voters with no say.
“The reason why people love and trust the NHS is because, for all its faults, it is a service that is based on people not profits”
In a speech in Manchester, the shadow health secretary claimed forced privatisation was being pushed through “at pace and scale” and warn that contracts being signed now will bind the next government.
“Labour publishes new analysis today which shows that NHS forced privatisation is entering new territory and becoming harder to reverse,” he said.
“Contracts are being signed that will run for the five years of the next parliament, and beyond. This is not acceptable. Contracts like this will tie the hands of the next government in a crucial area of public policy,” he said.
“But, even worse, they are being signed without a mandate from the public,” he said. “The prime minister was not up front about these plans at the last election. He needs to be reminded that he has never been given the permission of the public to put the NHS up for sale in this way.”
Since the Health and Social Care Act was introduced, the bidding for two contracts for cancer care in Staffordshire worth a total of £1.2bn and lasting for 10 years has been opened up to the private sector along with a five-year contract worth £800m for the care of older people in Cambridge.
Mr Burnham said voters faced the choice of a public, integrated NHS under Labour or fragmented and privatised service under the Conservatives.
He has written to NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens calling for a halt to any further contracts for NHS clinical services being signed until after the next election, except where there are issues of patient safety or urgent threats to service provision.
“The reason why people love and trust the NHS is because, for all its faults, it is a service that is based on people not profits,” Mr Burnham will add.
But a Conservative Party spokesman accused Labour of posturing, saying: “This speech is all about politics – it’s not a serious plan for the future of the NHS.
“Use of the private sector by the NHS doubled in the last four years of Labour, a far bigger increase than under this government,” he said.
“Andy Burnham himself signed off the privatisation of Hinchingbrooke Hospital during Labour’s final year, so it is pure political posturing to try to interfere with doctors making the best clinical judgments for patients,” he added.