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Health secretary called in over controversial Oxford scanner privatisation plans

The NHS’s decision to privatise cancer screening services in Oxford has been referred to the health secretary after widespread criticism from the public, MPs and doctors.

NHS England chose to take the Thames Valley PET-CT scanning service away from the Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Trust in July last year, and named private firm InHealth as the preferred bidder.

MPs said they were “dismayed” and “deeply worried” by the private outsourcing, and doctors at the trust said that the move will “undoubtedly” cause clinical harm to patients due to an “inferior quality” service.

Oxfordshire’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) has now agreed for the controversial decision to be reviewed by Matt Hancock after it was presented with a 10,000-signature petition opposing the plans late last week.

The initial outcry saw the privatisation plan partially reduced after NHS England agreed to keep two scanners in Churchill Hospital, but maintained that InHealth would still be given the contract.

But the proposal will be set aside until after the Department of Health and Social Care has completed a review of the procurement process ordered by HOSC after its own public meeting to review the controversial move.

MP Layla Moran previously said she was “deeply worried by the sheer scale of services being outsourced from our NHS and into private business” and said it was no way to be treating vulnerable cancer patients.

The Liberal Democrat MP has now welcomed the move’s referral, stating: “Everything about this process has been murky and opaque, and that’s why I’m glad, after so much pressure, that the government is finally taking notice.

“I, alongside other Oxfordshire MPs, have stood strongly against this shambles of a process since some light was shed on it.

“With the secretary of state now getting a chance to step in, I fear it is too little too late, but I will be keeping up the pressure and writing to him as a matter of urgency.”

After the initial decision to award InHealth the contract, a surgeon at the OUH trust Nick Maynard tweeted: “If InHealth take over our PET-CT service it will undoubtedly cause clinical harm to our patients. This cannot be allowed to proceed.”

Image credit - Dominic LipinskiPA ArchivePA Images


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