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Tuesday, 25 July 2006 09:23
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Private clinics 'no better than NHS'
According to a new report the Government has provided "no evidence" that controversial Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTC) have greater benefits than any NHS-run service.

ISTC had been established in England to drive down waiting lists and increase choice.

The Commons Health Committee says waiting lists have fallen but this is more likely to be due to extra money in the NHS than the impact of the ISTCs.

It also warned that the programme could lead to cuts in services at hospitals.

To date 21 ISTCs have been set up, although a number of NHS centres have also been established.

Committee chairman Kevin Barron, a Labour MP, said: "It is difficult to say how the ISTCs have affected either patients or the NHS due to the lack of any systematic assessment”.

But he added the "ideological" opposition to using ISTCs must end.

Paul Miller, chairman of the British Medical Association's consultants committee, said doctors had been worried about the effect of ISTCs for years.

"I am delighted that the Health Committee agrees NHS hospitals are more likely to give better integrated care and to be cheaper," he said.

And Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Sandra Gidley added: "This is yet another example of the Government introducing powerful forces into the NHS without any prior assessment of the impact they will have on patient care”.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: "The whole purpose of ISTCs was to increase capacity and introduce competition but they have failed on both accounts”.

Health Minister Lord Warner said ISTCs have "increased choice, offered earlier treatments and driven down prices".

And he added the Government had already made moves to gather more information about ISTCs by asking the Healthcare Commission to conduct an audit of the centres.


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