Jeremy Corbyn urged Theresa May to end “jackpot time for the privateers” in the NHS as he blamed outsourcing for denying cash to patient care.
The Labour leader also accused the Government of “tearing up the founding principles of the NHS and putting private profit before public service”, something the Prime Minister denied, before he warned GPs are “leaving the profession in despair” with more needed.
Mrs May defended the Government’s healthcare record and claimed the proportion of spend in NHS England outsourced to the private sector “did not go up at all” last year – but did increase by 0.8% in Labour-controlled Wales.
She also accused Labour of having “scaremongered” at every general election about the Conservatives’ approach to the NHS, saying her party had always put more cash in and “improved NHS services” when in power.
Health dominated the leaders’ exchanges at Prime Minister’s Questions after the pair also paid tribute to the victims of Grenfell Tower and the Manchester Arena attack.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Corbyn said: “NHS budgets have increased by just 1% per year under this Government, but it’s jackpot time for the privateers – their share is up by 100% to over £9 billion per year.
“We learnt that Surrey NHS has just paid Virgin Healthcare £1.5 million, not for any service they delivered but because their bid wasn’t chosen – £1.5 million wasted on Virgin Healthcare that should have been spent on healthcare itself.”
The Labour leader said the National Audit Office has warned that NHS England’s handling of private contractors had put “patients at risk of serious harm”.
Mrs May replied: “On the National Audit Office report, what they said was no actual harm has been identified.
“It is also the case that in relation to the particular contracts they were talking about, the savings made have all been reinvested in frontline NHS patient care and has helped to fund the equivalent of an extra 30,000 operations.”
Mrs May later said: “What has every elected Conservative government done? We have protected the NHS, we have improved NHS services, we have put more funding into the NHS and we have ensured we remain true to the founding principle of the NHS that it is free at the point of delivery.”
Mr Corbyn countered: “From the party that opposed the NHS in the first place that is a bit rich.”
On GPs, the Labour leader said: “GPs are leaving the profession in despair. Four thousand have retired early in the past five years – that’s one in 10.”
He questioned if the Government was still intent on hiring 5,000 extra GPs, which Mrs May said she was committed to delivering – with training for GPs increased.
In his concluding remarks, Mr Corbyn said the NHS approaches its 70th anniversary with the “worst A&E waits on record, the worst delays for cancer referrals on record”.
He went on: “Falling numbers of GPs, falling numbers of nurses and the longest funding squeeze in its history while this Government opens the door to even more profiteering.
“Why doesn’t the Prime Minister act now to end the siphoning off of billions of pounds from patient care and give it to the NHS, the funding that it needs?”
Mrs May said the NHS has more funding and treats more people, adding shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Labour want to “overthrow capitalism”.
She said of Labour’s approach: “It would mean families paying higher taxes, more debt for our children in future, fewer people in jobs and less money for our schools and hospitals.”