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Netcare In Unique Private Medical Care Initiative
The Cumbria Times and Star has reported on what they describe as a unique proposal which will see hospitals in north Cumbria working in partnership with South African healthcare company Netcare.
The report follows the introduction of CATS (Clinical Assessment, Treatment and Support) centres in a bid to reduce NHS waiting times. The three CATS centres proposed for Cumbria in Carlisle, Ulverston and Workington are to be run by Netcare who will conduct diagnostic tests and minor procedures for the NHS.
CATS is the new service, funded by the NHS but provided by the independent sector, where patients being referred by their GP's for certain types of surgery will be assessed in specialist private sector centres instead of attending NHS hospital out-patient clinics. Proposals regarding the development of CATS schemes in Cumbria, Lancashire and in Greater Manchester have proved controversial. There have been concerns over the extent of the proposed role of the independent sector; the manner of the consultation with the public, patients and local medical professionals in respect of the proposals; and the potential impact the schemes may have on the continuity of patient care, patient and professional choice, and the stability of local NHS organisations.
The original plan for Cumbria was to step up involvement of the private health sector in the establishment of outsourced Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTC's) who were to carry out ear, nose and throat (ENT) and gynaecology procedures. These proposals resulted in a great deal of controversy in the North West among unions, patient representative groups and NHS consultants who feared that the ISTC's would take money and jobs away from Cumbria's NHS hospitals and thereby threaten services. Following public consultation in February 2007 representatives of the Cumbria PCT vowed to fight these proposals and announced their intention to work with local acute hospitals to come up with an alternative solution.
The final proposals were revealed on 27th June at a meeting of the Cumbria Primary Care Trust and these arrangements will see NHS staff subcontracted to Netcare. Cumbria PCT has scrapped proposals to outsource other specialist services including ENT that were proposed for the clinic.
The main focus of these proposals will be on orthopaedics, an area in which the local North Cumbria Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is reported to have been struggling to meet demand.
The Trust's director of market development Nigel Maguire said the five-year contract with Netcare would be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that the focus of the initiative could be shifted to different areas if needed. The centres are expected to open in January 2008.
Michelmores' Laurence Vick and his clinical negligence team maintain a close interest in NHS outsourcing generally. Please refer to the various news items and the Netcare link on our web pages
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