Private sector involvement in NHS = money for nothing

Staggering, but sadly, not unexpected. The whole point of private sector involvement is not efficiency, cutting waiting-lists, or any other “what works” reason, but rather the state guaranteeing profits for multinational corporations. In other words, it’s Reverse Robin Hood – the taxpayer picks up the bill for this corporate welfare…

From The Morning Star:

Private clinics ‘ripping off the NHS’

(Wednesday 13 February 2008)
HEALTH campaigners hit out at greedy privateers on Wednesday for ripping off the NHS by raking in a guaranteed income despite treating hardly any patients.
New government figures showed that private clinics are being paid in full despite treating as little as 50 per cent of the work specified in their contracts.The private treatment centres were set up to do minor surgery and diagnostic tests in a bid to cut waiting lists, but the figures revealed that just four of 25 such clinics created in the first wave of openings are doing enough work.

Two waves of independent-sector treatment centres (ISTCs) have been opened since the concept was announced in 2003.

But some are only doing half the work set out in their contracts, while the first group were given lucrative guaranteed contracts by the government to entice them into the health service.

This caused anger in the NHS, as hospitals do not get such promises and have to “compete” for patients, as they are paid per person treated.

When ministers announced the second wave of centres, they said that they too would only be paid per patient.

Some of the second wave have now been scrapped because of a lack of demand and ministers have announced that there will be no third wave.

But, because of the nature of the guarantees given to the first group, the government has to pay the full amount of the contract regardless of how many patients the centres see.

UNISON head of health Karen Jennings said that the health union had warned from the beginning that ISTC contracts were too rigid and expensive and would destabilise local NHS hospitals.

“These latest figures confirm that ISTCs are not delivering value for money,” she said.

“We now have the spectacle of millions of pounds being paid out to private companies for operations that never take place.”

“This is money that should have gone into the NHS to build up capacity, meet local demand and improve patient care.”

Health Emergency spokesman Geoff Martin branded the privateers’ money-spinner “a rip-off on a massive scale.

“NHS beds are running at full tilt, yet these private clinics are having an easy ride at the taxpayer’s expense,” he stormed.

“It is just another example of the government’s corporate welfare policy of featherbedding the rich and powerful at the expense of public-sector workers and the taxpayer.”

The government claimed that the clinics would make up the work shortfall in the future.

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