Public benefits of more private role

I welcome the government’s enthusiasm for the private sector to
play a role in delivering education, health care and residential
care. It’s just a pity there are still pockets of local

A vocal minority of councillors, NHS managers and local authority
administrators continue to view the private sector with hostility.
I question whether they are motivated by a genuine belief that the
public sector does it better, or whether there is rivalry

In the past there was certainly justification for viewing the
private sector with suspicion, as standards of care and conditions
varied. But that was more than 10 years ago. Since then, profiteers
and poor services have been eradicated, mainly as a result of the
inspection and registration process and the Care Standards Act
2000. With quality, uniformity and investment now underpinning
private care, it should be time to call a truce between the public
and private sectors.

In the 19 years I worked for Berkshire social services, we went
through three re-organisations. Every request had to be approved by
several committees, and decisions took so long to make that often
by the time an agreement was reached the circumstances had changed
and the original idea was no longer relevant.

The situation has improved, but there are still senior managers
leaving the public sector because their ambitions cannot be
realised. In some areas it is the private and voluntary sectors
that are providing stability in the face of the regular
restructuring and personnel changes in state services.

What is more, government funding is inconsistent. But the private
and voluntary sector can give examples of excellent services as
well as the cost of providing them, which can only be beneficial
for public sector organisations.

Councils are taking on more of a purchasing role and transferring
the task of providing services to specialist agencies and
associations. But outsourcing the care of clients to hundreds of
small businesses can be difficult to manage and monitor. I believe
that we will see half a dozen or so major companies emerging to
operate commercial and stable alternatives to the state

The difference will be in the greater funding, resources and
autonomy for managers – all obvious benefits if you are prepared to
put your politics to one side. Perhaps it is time to wave the white

Paul Gold is managing director of Community Homes of
Intensive Care and Education.

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