Magazine article Public Finance

'Limit Growth' on Private Care in NHS

Magazine article Public Finance

'Limit Growth' on Private Care in NHS

Article excerpt

Doctors have warned that limits must be set on the health service's use of the private sector, putting them in direct opposition to both Labour and the Conservatives.

Launching Labours minimanifesto on health this week. Prime Minister Tony Blair announced he would purchase an additional 250,000 operations from the private sector if re-elected. This would raise the sector's share of NHS operations to between 7% and 8% (from 4% to 5% now).

Labour has promised the private sector 15% of NHS activity. Blair admitted this figure was 'arbitrary', and could be exceeded.

'This capacity will be used to treat NHS patients in line with NHS values - free at the point of use and always with the judgement based on clinical need, not ability to pay,' he said.

The prime minister said use of private hospitals, complemented by the government's NHS hospital building programme and patient choice, would reduce total waiting times to 18 weeks by 2008.

But the British Medical Association said strict limits must be set to protect NHS hospitals. It said 'spurious targets' for private provider use should not skew patient choice. 'Doctors are concerned that choice appeared to be little more than a euphemism for increased private involvement in health care and competition between institutions that provide care,' a spokesman said. …

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