Dept Of Health is frustrating to work with claim private companies

Three more independent sector treatment centres were finally given the go ahead as Ben Bradshaw, health minister, celebrated the private sector’s treatment of the millionth National Health Service patient under the health department’s centrally procured contracts.

But business leaders said delays in the programme sent a signal it was “hugely frustrating” to work with the Department of Health.

Of three centres to get the green light, all to be run by Care UK, two are in Manchester, one in Southampton. They are together worth about £50m a year.

As these contracts finally crossed the finishing line, however, three more schemes, already far smaller than envisaged in 2005, were devolved to NHS strategic health authorities to sort out – postponing further their approval.

A scheme for London that began mainly as provision for waiting list surgery will become a very different, and appreciably smaller, deal negotiated with a strategic health authority, the government disclosed yesterday. Negotiations for two other projects, in Hertfordshire and Essex, will be taken over by the East of England strategic health authority.

Work persists on another scheme for the Avon area, but Mr Bradshaw hoped it could be signed off soon.

The fate of these four deals are now all that remains to be decided from the original 27 contracts for a second wave of independent surgical centres. Eleven of these have been cancelled, with only 12 going ahead.

Mr Bradshaw said private provision was providing fast access to services, offering more choice, cutting waiting times and “galvanising the NHS to raise its game”. The government was committed to private sector involvement where it met local needs and offered value.

But Neil Bentley, director of public services for the CBI employers’ body, said the message to private providers and investors was clear: to do business with the department of health was time-consuming, costly and hugely frustrating.

It was baffling that decisions on some projects had taken more than three years when the health minister himself said independent sector treatment centres were a force for good.

The CBI had said for all seven schemes to go ahead would be a critical test of government commitment to more market-based NHS reforms. “The verdict on the remaining schemes will demonstrate whether the local NHS is capable of seeing these reforms through,” Mr Bentley said.


Health Direct notes that once again it is the poor and infirm who are the victims of labour’s dithering about future health funding.

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