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Private centre delay hits PCTs

PCTs face missing waiting list targets and will have to find funds to commission alternative services after the Department of Health delayed the opening of a new independent sector treatment centre.

The centre, in the West Midlands, was due to start providing an audiology service on 26 March, but primary care trust staff found out on the Friday before that it would not be ready.

The department said the delay had been caused because health and safety guarantees had not been signed off by

the provider, Mercury Health.

'There are conditions in all our contracts which providers have to meet before we will allow services to start,' a spokesman said. 'These ensure patient safety and high quality healthcare for NHS patients.'

Now some PCTs are being forced to recommission services from existing providers for fear that they may incur delays and extra expense.

One PCT source in the

affected area, who asked not to be named, told Pulse: 'It may cost us extra but the most important thing is to ensure patients are seen.

'We're working very hard to meet our targets and that's why we've had to go back to our provider arm.

'We're hoping we meet our targets but obviously anything that causes delays in the system might affect targets.'

The source said: 'GPs have been prepared to use a new

service. What we've got to do

is keep them referring into

the same service they've been using.'

However, Paul Hobson, managing director of diagnostics

at Mercury Health, said: 'The

delay has been caused by a

legal technicality and is categorically not due to any concerns about patient safety or the quality of care.

'It is always very frustrating when badly needed services are delayed.

'We are currently working closely with the Department of Health to resolve this and ensure that NHS patients living in the West Midlands have access to audiology services as swiftly as possible.'

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