§ Mr. Colvin
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, if, in view of the recent investment by United States hospital chains in the United Kingdom, he will make a statement on the future of private health care and the effect which continued growth in this area will have on the National Health Service.
§ Dr. Vaughan
It is our policy to encourage the development of the private health sector and we welcome new investment in the field whether from the United Kingdom or abroad. We believe a flourishing private sector brings extra resources to health care to supplement those available in the NHS and to relieve pressure on NHS services. The private sector is small compared with the NHS but its facilities are part of the health care resources of this country and play an important part in the provision of health care. They are open to 3 ½ million people covered by private medical insurance—people who might otherwise look to the NHS. This enables the NHS better to provide for those who cannot afford, or do not choose to go private.36W
Generally we do not believe that the development of the private sector harms the NHS in any way. However, we have retained (with some amendments) the system of control in the Health Services Act 1976 so that the NHS locally is not adversely affected to any significant extent by a particular hospital development or the aggregate of a number of developments.