THE NHS in Scotland could face a risk of privatisation under key Brexit legislation which allows the UK Government to be responsible for powers determining how public bodies run or fund services, the SNP have warned.

Dr Philippa Whitford, the party’s health spokeswoman in the Commons, said holding on to responsibilities over public procurement was “one of the most worrying” aspects of the EU Withdrawal Bill and how it related to devolution.

Writing in The National, she stated the move would allow future UK Governments to determine how the Scottish Government funds or purchases services.

The development was especially concerning in light of the Conservatives’ drive to open up public services to the private sector.

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“For me, one of the most worrying powers on the list is over ‘Public Procurement’. It has not had much attention but would give this Tory Government the power to set the ultimate rules on how the Scottish Government purchases or funds public services on behalf of us all,” she explained.

“This could be as simple as declaring that all public service contracts have to be put out to tender between traditional public bodies and private companies. My concern, of course, is how this could be used against our Scottish Health Service.”

She added: “NHS England is currently undergoing yet another huge reorganisation to create area-based health and care services. While I support any improvement in integration, such services could be taken over by a private company instead of a statutory body (like our Health Boards).

“It could also mean that big US health companies will more easily be able to expand their hold in NHS England. Many medical organisations in England are particularly concerned as the new Health Secretary has received campaign funding from the Institute of Economic Affairs – a think-tank that actively campaigns for NHS England to be changed to an insurance and payment based system like that of the US.

“It is not yet clear how this Tory Government will use their power over public procurement across all four UK countries but, if we care about keeping NHS Scotland as a unified public health service – why would we allow a neighbour, who is obsessed by ‘market’ philosophy, to take ultimate control over it?”

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Whitford added legislation in England has forced the NHS to tender out some servies to private companies as they come up for renewal resulting in some community services and GP practices being run by Virgin Care, Capita, Circle and other private companies.

She said: “The whole system runs as a Healthcare ‘Market’ and the administration costs alone are estimated to take £5-10 billion per year away from frontline care.

“The legal power of Section 75 was recently demonstrated when Virgin Care sued six Commissioning Groups in Surrey for trying to bring services back into the NHS rather than renewing the Virgin contract.”

The EU Withdrawal Bill was passed in June and allows Westminster to take control over 24 areas of devolved policy for a temporary period rather than powers being passed to Holyrood. Areas include farms subsidies and animal welfare.