BMA’s ban on private units helping NHS is ‘misguided’

A bid by the BMA’s policymaking doctors to prevent consultants treating NHS patients in independent hospital settings has been described as ‘deeply misguided’ by the organisation representing the UK’s private hospitals and clinics.

Doctors at the trade union’s annual representative meeting last month backed a demand for the UK governments to stop the health service using its budget to pay for treatments in the private sector.

One BMA leader complained that money was being poured into expensive independent sector contracts to do NHS work when this would be better spent boosting capacity in the health service itself.

But David Hare, chief executive of the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN), responded: ‘Indepen­dent healthcare providers have worked hand in hand with the NHS throughout the pandemic and are committed to playing their role in helping clear the growing elective care backlog. 

‘Removing the independent sector from the NHS is deeply misguided and would significantly undermine patients’ ability to get the care they need – drastically reducing the capacity available to the NHS at its moment of need, and in turn lengthening waiting times and adding millions to NHS waiting lists.’

Some NHS hospitals are already failing to even discuss private hospital potential. An Independent Practitioner Today website news story last month reported capacity being wasted because NHS hospitals were failing to involve them in planning to ease the elective care backlog in 2022-23.

An IHPN survey of 20 private hospital members found one in four had not been involved in any planning discussions about the elective recovery. Mr Hare has urged the NHS to pull out all the stops to ensure patients can access the care they need. He said most independent providers were being asked to deliver the same or even less NHS activity in 2022-23 than pre-pandemic.