THE health body which holds the purse strings for NHS services in Oxfordshire has been told not to form any further partnerships with private companies without first discussing the issue at a public committee.

Fears over further privatisation of the county’s health services were raised at a meeting of the Joint Overview and Health Scrutiny Committee (JHOSC) after details of a deal with German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim Ltd were revealed.

Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) formed the partnership to run a new pilot scheme aimed at improving diagnosis and treatment of respiratory diseases.

However, district councillor for Grove and Wantage, Jenny Hannaby said she had ‘great concerns’ about such partnerships with private firms, saying the deals could open the doors to further privatisation of NHS services.

She said: “What happens if the NHS side breaks down and it doesn’t work?

“You’ve still got this partnership with the company; are they going to take it over and run it completely?

“It seems a really dangerous precedent to set. Going in with a large pharmaceutical – it feels like the start of going into more private areas within the NHS.

"If this is deemed by the CCG to be successful how many more private companies are going to come in and start running health services in Oxford?"

At the meeting CCG chief executive Louise Patten called the new partnership an 'exciting opportunity', telling the committee: "There is lots of good practice and we have learned by adopting our policy for working with the private sector."

The health chief also refused to make assurances that such deals would not be struck in the future.

She did however agree to bring any similar plans to the committee before a decision is made on subsequent agreements.

She said: "We don't have anything else in the pipeline but I would be reluctant to give my word at this time in case there's any immediate or necessary need to do so."

The joint-funded pilot will focus on Oxford city and the north of the county where hospital admissions are higher for respiratory conditions.

It will run until February 2020 when best practice and learning from the pilot will be shared across the rest of the county in order to 'maximise benefits'.

Boehringer Ingelheim Ltd, whose headquarters are in Ingelheim, Germany, is one of the world's 20 leading pharmaceutical companies.