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New crackdown on ICSs that ‘discourage’ referrals to private hospitals

NHS England will begin monitoring and benchmarking systems on the extent to which patients are given the option to be treated by a private provider.

The move follows the government today endorsing the recommendations of a review by the chair of the newly created Independent Patient Choice and Procurement Panel, which has highlighted how some local areas are restricting patient choice.

It highlighted significant variation in choice between some systems, which it said was driven by factors including messaging from commissioners to GPs that discourages choice and/or encourages referrals to local NHS trusts, financial incentives for referrals to particular providers and difficulties in securing accreditation from commissioners.

It cited one example where the operator of an independent sector hospital that is co-located with an NHS hospital was contractually prevented by the NHS trust from accepting certain referrals.

Health and social care secretary Victoria Atkins said: “Empowering patients to take control of their own healthcare decisions is a key part of my missions to make the NHS faster, simpler and fairer for everyone that uses it.”

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Source: HSJ, 15 May 2024


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