The private sector is set to help clear NHS waiting lists by operating eight new community diagnostic centres (CDCs), the government has announced.
The eight independent CDCs will operate in the same way as NHS-owned estates, with five in Redruth, Bristol, Torbay, Yeovil and Weston Super Mare expected to be fully operational next year.
The remaining three, which will reside in Southend, Northampton and Birmingham, will be up and running by the end of this year.
The independent centres will help provide patients with more convenient avenues of getting checked, while also remaining free at the point of use.
The Department of Health and Social Care has also announced five new NHS-run CDCs, which will be in Hornchurch, Skegness, Lincoln, Nottingham, and Stoke-on-Trent. In total, the new CDCs will deliver over 742,000 additional tests, checks and scans a year.
The government’s elective recovery taskforce has also set out measures that will see data used to identify where the independent sector can further support the NHS in terms of spare capacity. This comes alongside desires to expand the use of the private sector to train junior NHS staff.
Deputy chief executive at NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said that the independent sector has been a long-standing partner of the health service and that trusts will welcome the extra support while waiting lists are at record levels.
"But this announcement must form one part of a bigger solution as the NHS bears down on waiting lists,” she said however.
"It's vital that an increase in diagnostic capacity is matched by increased capacity across the health and care system to deliver the treatments patients need once diagnosed.
"The long-term workforce plan sets out a vision to put the NHS workforce on a sustainable footing in the years to come, but questions must rightly be asked about how this additional capacity will be fully delivered given national skills shortages for some roles.”
She continued: "And while investment in CDCs is welcome, it is also vital that the NHS is given the capital funding it needs now and in the longer term to expand its own diagnostics capacity amid a backdrop of growing patient demand.”
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