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Private provider loses NHS deal

The government is cancelling the contract of a major private provider to the NHS because, Health Secretary Alan Johnson said, it is not fulfilling its responsibilities. It will, however, give the green light to a new independent sector treatment centre (ISTC) in Cumbria and Lancashire. Mr Johnson also confirmed a two-thirds cut in NHS targets.

The company which lost out – Atos Origin – was due to provide diagnostic services to the NHS in both the North West and South West. Speaking to the health service select committee, Mr Johnson said: “They have failed to meet certain conditions within the contracts within an acceptable time frame.”

However, the health secretary said ISTCs had been an “important part” of the government NHS reforms, and had “contributed to the spread of innovation and best practice”.

The new service in the north of England will provide around 11,000 procedures a year for NHS patients, including general surgery and orthopaedics. Mr Johnson said he expected to approve more similar schemes in the coming months. “They would have to meet the local needs of patients, and offer value for money for the tax payer,” he said.

Private centres have proved controversial amid accusations they “cream off” easy operations for maximum profit, leaving difficult cases to the NHS.