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Reliance on private hospitals being ‘hard wired’ into NHS elective care

The drive to cut NHS waiting lists are becoming ‘disproportionately reliant’ on the private sector, experts have warned, as new data suggests rapid growth in the elective activity carried out by non-NHS providers.

Internal figures for activity commissioned by integrated care boards and NHS England, seen by HSJ, suggests the value-weighted activity carried out by private providers has increased by around 30 per cent on pre-covid levels. The value-weighted elective activity carried out by NHS providers rose by just three per cent over the same three-month period, from April to June 2023.

The figures relate to activity measured under the “elective recovery fund”, which accounts for the bulk of elective activity. NHSE said it was right to make use of “all available capacity” to treat long-waiters. However, experts said the NHS would struggle to bring down waiting lists without significantly increasing the amount of elective work it did.

Waiting list analyst Rob Findlay said independent sector outsourcing was “not genuine backlog clearance, but a way of plugging some of the recurring shortfall in core NHS capacity.”

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: HSJ, 23 October 2023


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