Pledge to re-open private sector welcomed

By Robin Stride

Private doctors’ organisations have welcomed an NHS England (NHSE) pledge paving the way for a resumption of consultants’ work in the independent sector.

The Federation of Independent Practitioner Organisations (FIPO) said that despite the NHS Confederation today calling for a continuation of the NHS contract with the independent sector, the ‘true position’ had been clarified earlier by Neil Permain, the NHSE director of operations.

FIPO quoted from a statement the NHSE boss reportedly made to regional teams, which has been passed on to some consultants: ‘Where there is no capacity conflict with NHS requirements, the default position is that independent sector providers now have nationwide permission to restart private elective work and decisions around resumption, scheduling and prioritisation are entirely a matter for independent sector providers.’ 

Restart private medicine

Chairman Mr Richard Packard told Independent Practitioner Today: ‘We at FIPO welcome this opportunity to restart private medicine, which will help to shorten waiting lists for the benefit of all patients.’

Another response to the NHS Confederation’s plea for a continuation of the NHS’s deal with the independent sector until the end of the financial year came from Dr Neil Haughton, president of the Independent Doctors Federation (IDF).

He said: ‘The IDF recognises the need for the extraordinary national response to the Covid-19 crisis in March this year and the private sector willingly made its services and staff available. This had a huge impact on the income of its hospitals and doctors, as seen in many other sectors. 

Massive investment

‘Clearly, the impact of delayed NHS treatment will require massive Government investment in the months to come. We understand that the private sector should be part of that response, and it will be, but not at the expense of the whole industry, which employs thousands of doctors, nurses and associated professionals.’ 

Private GP Dr Haughton added: ‘Emergencies happen in private medicine as well and must not be discriminated against by NHS contracts. To undermine the private sector for so many months diminishes the choice of patients to prioritise their own care with insurance and self-funded treatment. 

‘We do not want special treatment or to complain about reduced private medical incomes, but just to be treated fairly in a rapidly changing situation and national effort.’ 

He said if the NHS deal was extended, then provision had to be made for private patients to access care safely. Referral networks should be restored and the huge challenge Covid-19 had caused to so many doctors’ businesses should be addressed.

Dr Mark Vanderpump, chairman of the London Consultants’ Association, said consultant involvement should be an essential component of any decision-making to ensure patients’ needs were met.