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19.11.12

Private firms treating more patients – IFS

Allowing independent health firms to be paid out of NHS funds has seen private operators grow from doing very few state-funded procedures to being a “significant” provider of care, new research suggests.

According to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), independent sector treatment centres have increased their role in the NHS substantially. The centres now carry out 17% of hip replacements, 17% of hernia repairs and 6% of gall bladder removals annually.

There are now 195 independent hospitals and treatment centres in England where patients can be treated at NHS prices under the ‘choose and book’ system.

David Worskett, director of the NHS Partners Network, told the Guardian: “This is further evidence that patients do indeed want to have choice and will take advantage of it where it is in their interests to do so.”

A British Medical Association spokesman said: “The BMA has had concerns for a number of years about the ethos of promoting competition between different providers within the NHS as this could lead to a fragmentation and possible destabilisation of patient services.”

Lord Howe, the health minister, said: “The crucial thing here is that patients have access to the best possible services on the NHS and that they do so according to the founding principles of the health service – free at the point of delivery and available to all on the basis of need.

“We want to give patients more choice about where, when and how they can access their health services and patients are clearly making choices about services that meet a broad range of their needs.”

The report is at: http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/6443

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