The largest trade union in the country has said government efficiency savings should be targeted at the “costly, creeping privatisation” of the NHS.

Unite said it was concerned the growing role of the private sector was “draining resources from public services”.

Assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “No area of the public sector – education, health and local government – will be spared these ‘efficiency savings’.

“It doesn’t make sense to curb budgets as people hit by the recession need public services all the more.

“We are seriously concerned by the costs of privatisation. The NHS is the most obvious example where the privatisation agenda has been aggressively promoted by private healthcare companies.

“The first candidate for ‘efficiency savings’ should be these misguided excursions into privatisation in all its guises.”

The Department of Health is expected to contribute £2.3bn to chancellor Alistair Darling’s £5bn of public spending cuts in 2010-11. However, NHS chief executive David Nicholson told HSJ these were accounted for in the already-planned allocations uplift, and tariff efficiency savings of 3 per cent and 3.5 in 2009-10 and 2010-11.

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