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Firms confident over growing primary care role despite recession

By Gareth Iacobucci

The private sector is confident that its push to advance into primary care will ‘regain momentum' despite a recent slowdown, a new survey has found.

Almost two-thirds of private sector organisations agreed or strongly agreed that reforms carried out under Lord Darzi's next stage review would lead to greater private sector participation in the NHS.

Two-thirds specifically felt that the private sector would benefit from the rollout of polyclinics and GP-led health centres.

The joint survey by Health Investor and Commercial law firm Nabarro follows a recent Pulse survey which revealed that ¼ of the Government's equitable access contracts awarded to date had gone to private providers.

The results provide further evidence that the independent sector remains intent on advancing into primary care – despite recent predictions that interest had cooled in light of the looming recession.

The survey collected data from 101 private sector professionals involved in healthcare, including providers, financiers, lawyers and consultants.

It said: ‘The majority of interviewees…pointed to Lord Darzi's re-statement of the Department of Health's pledge to strengthen patient choice.

‘It was felt that this clear commitment means that marketisation of the NHS primary and secondary care – a process that has slowed in recent months – will soon regain momentum'.

Gordon Hamilton of ING corporate finance, said the private sector ‘had to benefit' from the reforms. ‘I think there is a real market for the private sector to be innovative,' he said.

Despite their positivity towards Lord Darzi's reforms, respondents were more sceptical about the ability of the new Co-operation & Competition Panel to show its teeth.

Half of the organisations said they didn't believe the new panel - which is being set up to deal with disputes to ensure that providers operate on a level playing field - would improve competition.

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