Private units ‘are no cure for NHS waits’

Surgeons have warned that private healthcare has no hope of dealing with mounting NHS waiting lists. 

Responding to a report from the think tank Reform called ‘What’s next for the NHS?’, Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCSE) president Prof Neil Mortensen said: ‘So long as we are still caring for thousands of Covid patients in NHS hospitals, then yes, we will need continued access to the independent sector’s separate sites.  

Prof Neil Mortensen

‘But there isn’t enough private sector capacity to deal with the huge surgical backlog, which could be as high as 10m patients, as this report suggests. 

‘We need a “new deal” for surgery with investment in NHS capacity, to get back to meeting legal waiting times standards.’

The RCSE agreed with the spirit of a report recommendation that ‘NHS England and Improvement should mandate the publication of wait list recovery plans by integrated care systems and trusts’. 

But Prof Mortensen said this lacked ambition in only referencing use of independent sector capacity. 

Health service commentator Roy Lilley wrote on his blog: ‘Some say there could be as many as 10m people waiting. The fact is, we don’t know. 

‘Whatever the number, we know it’s a lot, so treat it like the national emergency it undoubtably is.

‘Forget the private sector; it’s boutique and we need industrial. Anyway, it sucks NHS staff out of the system. They have 8,000 beds and little emergency back-up if something goes wrong.’