Published: 10/01/2001, Volume 112, No. 5787 Page 23

If the deal with BUPA ('BUPA hospital to clear NHS excess', news, page 5, 6 December 2001) is an expedient to bring down waiting lists in Surrey, and helps to preserve the credibility of the NHS with the middle classes, it is probably worth doing.

But the only thing the private sector has which the NHS needs is spare capacity. In the long term, the private health sector in the UK is parasitical. It contributes nothing to the cost of training the staff it lures away, and it relies on the nearest NHS hospital to bail it out when things go wrong.

As recipients and providers of healthcare, we have learned to ask for evidence that a new procedure is safe and effective before it is used. We would like to see some evidence before experiments are tried on the NHS. The initiatives already introduced need time to work.

Let us see evidence that BUPA can produce better results than the NHS before we have any more of this.

Martin Rathfelder Development director Socialist Health Association Manchester