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ISTCs 'cherry picking' patients, research claims

By Gareth Iacobucci

The Government's Independent Sector Treatment Centres (ISTCs) are ‘cherry picking' patients and leaving complex and more expensive cases to NHS providers, new research has claimed.

Researchers at the University of York suggest that the private sector centres have seen fewer patients from deprived areas, who generally need fewer diagnoses and undergo fewer procedures than patients seen in NHS hospitals.

The study, published in the journal Health Policy, calls for the payment system to be re-designed, given that hospitals are treating patients ‘of greater complexity than treatment centres'.

It concluded: ‘If treatment centres routinely treat patients with less complex needs, they may profit at the expense of NHS hospitals. If so, this would suggest that the prospective payment system is unfair.'

‘If these observed differences between hospitals and treatment centres drive costs, then payments should be refined to ensure fair reimbursement.'

The study follows research earlier this year by the University of Edinburgh, which estimated the health service may have overpaid ISTC providers by close to £1 billion by handing them guaranteed cash regardless of how many patients they treated.

The Government has substantially scaled back on plans to expand the controversial programme, after admitting many private providers were not giving value for money.

Research has shown that hospitals are treating more complex cases than ISTCs Secondary care

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