The UK government has announced an expansion of its Independent Sector Treatment Centre (ISTC) scheme which it claims will bring faster treatment and greater choice.
Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said three more ISTCs had been given the go ahead at a cost of £385m over seven years.
Following a review of Phase 2 of the ISTC programme, two schemes in Greater Manchester and one in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight have been approved by the Department of Health and HM Treasury.
This will bring the total number of schemes in Phase 2 to ten – seven of which have already started to deliver services of patients. Final proposals for the Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Electives scheme are now being considered and are expected to be announced shortly.
The schemes are set to provide over 1.5 million contracted procedures and outpatient consultations, including general surgery, orthopaedics, ophthalmology, and diagnostics.
The DH also confirmed independent sector provision will in future be procured locally rather than centrally.
Mr Bradshaw said: “It is right that in future the local NHS will commission independent sector providers, to ensure faster procurement of services that reflect local needs.”
However, the BMA claimed ISTCs failed to give value for money, saying the independent sector should only be used when the NHS cannot provide the service locally, quality can be assured, and when it is truly value for money.
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