NHS staff across the health service are to be given the right to set up their own organisations to provide and manage care for patients, health secretary Andrew Lansley has said.
The Department of Health is the first Whitehall ministry to implement the government’s “right to provide” scheme which will allow workers throughout the public sector to form employee-led mutuals to deliver services.
Ministers believe that the move will unleash ideas and innovation that have previously been stifled by public sector bureaucracy, improving services and extending choice.
As social enterprises, mutuals formed under the scheme will have the duty to reinvest any profit into the community.
Services including alcohol and drug detox, mental health, sexual health and support for people with eating disorders are expected to transfer out of the NHS under the initiative.
Mr Lansley outlined how the move will work when he addresses the Social Enterprise Coalition’s Voice 11 conference at the O2 in east London, and said that he wanted to see 10 per cent of the NHS community services budget delivered by social enterprises in the coming years.
Speaking ahead of the conference, he said: “We want to modernise the NHS to make it more responsive to patients, not top-down controls.
“Arbitrary rules and central targets stifle the energy and ambition that all health professionals need to improve patient care.
“That’s why we’re giving staff greater control of their organisations.
“By handing responsibility and power to the frontline, a variety of services will develop, which in turn will give patients a real choice about the kind of care they want to receive.”
Shadow health secretary John Healey warned that the government’s policies would bring “the ethics of the free market” into the NHS.
Mr Healey said: “The mutual movement is based on an ethic of co-operation, and Labour already introduced a right to request to form a social enterprise in the NHS.
“But what the Tory-led government has planned for the NHS is based fundamentally on the ethics of the free market.”