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Value warning issued over ISTCs


22 February, 2008  

There is no substantial evidence that private treatment centres set up in 2003 offer good value for money for the taxpayer, experts have said.

Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTCs), which have contracts with the NHS, were set up to cut waiting lists by carrying out surgery like hip replacements and cataract removal.

But critics say they “cream off” easy operations, leaving complicated cases to the NHS. They have also been slammed over the fact they receive a guaranteed income regardless of how many patients they see.

Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Professor Allyson Pollock and Sylvia Godden, from the University of Edinburgh, said the Government seems determined to “privatise the delivery of healthcare”.

The ISTC programme for England, over the course of two phases, will provide elective surgery and other services at a total cost of more than £5bn, they said.

In July 2007, 24 centres, provided by seven for-profit companies, were operational but there was no good data on the scale of their contribution, they wrote.

“Data on the number of available and occupied beds are collected annually from NHS trusts but no such data are collected from independent sector treatment centres, although Government policy is that they should be submitted as part of hospital episode statistics.

“Without these data it is impossible to assess the contribution that these centres make to capacity, productivity, or efficiency as extra beds, throughput, and bed occupancy cannot be measured.”

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