Owen Smith warns of increasing NHS privatization

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Contender for Labour leadership, Owen Smith, has claimed the government has ‘a secret plan to privatize the NHS’ in England.

During a campaign trail speech at the University of Salford, Mr Smith highlighted figures from the Department of Health which show a doubling in NHS spending on the private sector over the last 6 years, from £4.1 billion in 2009/10 to £8.7 billion in 2015/16.

Mr Smith said the report states that the private sector is underutilized in the NHS and sets out plans to further privatize the service. ‘We need to see less privatization in the NHS, not more,’ he said.

He reiterated his pledge that a Labour government led by him would increase spending on the NHS by 4% a year.

Ahead of his speech Mr Smith said: ‘The NHS is our country's most valued institution - and people will be shocked to hear that the Tories have been putting together a secret plan to privatize it.’

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: ‘This analysis is simply wrong - this government was the first to ensure that doctors, not politicians, make decisions about who provides care.’

She went on: ‘We are committed to the values of the NHS and to delivering a safer 7-day service. We are investing an extra £10 billion a year by 2020 so the NHS can introduce its own plan for the future.’

It has been suggested that Mr Smith campaigned for greater privatization of NHS services during his time at the pharmaceuticals company Pfizer. However, Mr Smith says these claims are grossly exaggerated.