Eighty percent of doctors are concerned about private sector involvement in the National Health Service, a poll by Doctors.net.uk on behalf of the British Medical Association has revealed.

Out of 697 doctors surveyed, 80% either strongly agreed (51%) or agreed (29%) with the British Medical Association’s concerns “that some large multinational companies are making profits out of running local clinical services on behalf of the NHS”, and just 7% either disagreed or strongly disagreed.

The findings provide further ammunition to the BMA’s Look after our NHS campaign, which is working to highlight the true cost of market-based reforms such as the Private Finance Initiative and the Payment-by-Results schemes “to show where public money is being wasted and how this is affecting patient care and doctors’ working lives”.

“This is more evidence of the medical profession’s concerns about commercial values being imposed on the NHS,” said Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of Council at the BMA. “There are countless examples of taxpayers’ money being wasted because of the drive for services to be provided by profit-making companies rather than traditional NHS providers,” he added, and called for the restoration of the NHS in England “to a publicly provided, publicly funded service, driven by the needs of patients, not shareholders”.

Alongside results of the poll the Association also published details of where it believes public money is being wasted because of market-driven reforms. It claims that a whopping £1.54 billion might have been overpaid to Independent Sector Treatment Centres in England alone for work not actually undertaken, and says too much money is being spent on management consultants, with £350 million of NHS money sunk into employing their services in England in the last financial year.

The health service is in for a pretty tough time financially after 2011, after which it will have to grapple with budget constraints and a rising demand on services. But while it understands the need for efficiency, the BMA insists that cost-saving measures should focus on tackling waste from the commercial provision of NHS services and not on making cuts to frontline care.

Earlier this month, the Association unveiled its UK General Election Manifesto, which stressed that returning the NHS to a publicly provided service and dumping “expensive market-based policies” will save money that can be re-directed into patient care.

“When the drivers are profits, it has to be asked whether patients’ interests are really being served, and value for money being achieved,” Meldrum said, and argued that “creating a market means high transactional costs and bureaucracy, with money that could be spent on patient care going to private companies and shareholders”.