Paying the private sector for NHS work it hasn’t done!

The Health Service Journal reports that the first independent treatment centre to complete a five year contract will have delivered about 20 per cent less work than it was paid for. South African company Netcare’s contract to provide mobile cataract surgery ends on 31 May and is not being renewed.

The £42m contract was for 44,735 procedures. By the end of May Netcare expects to have done just over 36,000 – or just 81 per cent. The NHS will be paying them around £8 million for work not done.

It’s difficult to know whether such a contract is the result of incompetence or the government’s desire to encourage private companies into the “health market”. In contrast NHS organisations have been penalised for carrying out “too much” work, being paid less money for each activity. This reflects the fact that the new “health market” is designed as if they were producing commodities. However, patients do not chose to become ill.

The national MRI scanning contract also comes to an end in July. The Department of Health says more than 431,000 scans have been performed under the contract. HSJ calculates this will mean around 100,000 scans will have been paid for and not used by the end of the contract, which is thought to have cost around £95m for 560,000 scans over five years.

For all the talk of the government abandoning neo-liberalism, it has not shown any sign of moving away from privatisation. Indeed, the DoH has recently produced a document which sets out “a new commercial operating model”. To drive this and increase competition “regional commercial support units” will be set up to “stimulate the market”. They “wish to maximise the contribution of third and private sector organisations”.

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