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16.11.15

Majority say private care can reduce pressure on NHS hospitals

Almost eight in 10 British adults (72%) think that, as long as care remains free, the NHS should make use of private sector providers to reduce pressure on hospitals during the winter months, an NHS Confederation poll has found.

The poll, commissioned by the Confederation’s NHS Partners Network, representing independent sector providers (both for-profits and not-for-profits), also revealed that 74% of those surveyed agree that waiting times in the NHS are too long, with only 20% agreeing that central government is doing enough to reduce this.

To alleviate pressure on hospitals as winter bites, the independent sector has made available over 250,000 extra surgical operations and diagnostic tests between December and March 2016.

This will add on to the tens of thousands of procedures already scheduled to be delivered by the private sector this winter to help mitigate growing waiting times.

David Hare, the Network’s chief executive, said: “The public are telling us that we are failing patients if we do not strain every sinew over winter to utilise all available capacity across the health and care system to help ensure timely access to services.

“It is not acceptable that patients are left to wait over 18 weeks for treatment while available capacity goes unused. NHS patients have the right to request to be seen by an independent sector provider – and no patients should be left to wait when there is a viable alternative for treatment.”

Other poll findings allegedly back this call for private help, with almost three-quarters of over 2,000 surveyed adults between 30 October and 1 November agreeing that if waiting times at local hospitals exceed 18 weeks, they would choose to go to a private provider delivering free NHS care.

In fact, most of those surveyed think it does not matter whether care is given by public or private providers if services are free at the point of use.

But these private sector services are also set to be amongst the hardest hit by the sector’s 2016-17 tariff. Proposed NHS price changes outlined in Monitor’s impact assessment for the next financial year will cut national priced income of private providers by 7%.

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