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08.05.18

Hunt gives private hospitals two weeks to ‘get house in order’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has today called upon private hospitals to “ensure rapid improvement” from the independent sector offering care that does not meet the standard of NHS trusts.

In a letter to independent hospital provider chief executives, seen by The Guardian, Hunt alluded to the recent CQC report that claimed a third of private hospitals were failing patient safety – adding that private sector bosses should provide a response to his questions with clear actions within two weeks.

 “The CQC report suggests that there is a real risk this progress is not being matched by equally high standards in parts of the independent sector,” he wrote.

Hunt added that with the private sector employing NHS-trained consultants, uses the NHS as “safety net” for emergency care, and holding a number of NHS contracts, letting down patients on safety and quality is deemed to be unacceptable.

His intervention comes after the CQC report found that 30% of the 206 independent acute hospitals were rated as ‘requires improvement’ due to concerns over safety.

In responding to this report, Hunt outlined six key issues to be taken into account by the independent health chiefs: rapid improvement of NHS private trusts rated ‘inadequate’, greater transparency from the sector, and improvements to the process of NHS claiming back of costs created by private sector negligence.

In addition, the secretary of state called on the private sector to assess the standard of critical care and transfers to the NHS, in addition to improving the monitoring of the standard of work of practicing consultants, and to make “a meaningful contribution” to the government’s apprenticeship program.

“I believe that the independent sector can play a useful role in adding capacity, promoting innovation and offering patients choice,” Hunt concluded. “However, if the sector is to partner with the NHS and benefit from our world-leading medical training, we need urgent assurances that you will get your house in order on quality and safety.”

Whitehall sources told The Guardian that if providers did not come up with a sufficient action plan within the two-week deadline, the Department of Health and Social Care would develop new policies to eradicate poor practice.

Separately, an inquiry is currently underway looking how care can be improved by the independent sector following the conviction in 2017 of consultant breast surgeon, Ian Paterson, for performing unnecessary, life-changing operations. The inquiry is expected to report in summer 2019.

Image Credit: David Mirzoeff PA Wire

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