There has been general welcome among senior health professionals to the formalising of a relationship between the NHS and the private sector.Secretary of State for Health Alan Milburn has signed an official concordat with the independent sector, which aims to see more NHS patients treated more quickly, using spare private capacity.
Patients will remain as NHS patients, and they will be treated on the basis of clinical need and not ability to pay.
The NHS Confederation has particularly welcomed the mechanics of the new concordat, which leaves local health authorities in charge of commissioning these private services, rather than centralising the task.
The Government has said, however, that it expects to see arrangements to ensure high standards of care for the patient and good value for money for the tax-payer.
As well as covering the use of private operating theatres to try to reduce the number of cancellations at peak times, the concordat covers preventative and rehabilitation services, and the sharing of information about workforce supply and demand.
The BMA says that the concordat is a pragmatic move that will make more facilities available and lead to quicker treatment of more patients. It has called on the Government not to reduce its effort to tackle what it calls a chronic shortage of theatres, staff and facilities inside the NH