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Treatment centre plan for London under fire

By Ian Cameron

Plans for a network of independent sector treatment centres across London have been condemned by GPs as a waste of NHS resources.

A tender process is close to completion for a trio of contracts to provide 'considerable' additional diagnostic and elective surgery capacity for the NHS in the capital.

The centres will provide 71,000 MRI scans, 31,000 ultrasound investigations, 56,000 plain film X-rays, and 9,500 endoscopies and echocardiograms.

The contracts, which NHS providers are barred from bidding for, are understood to be worth up to £300m.

Independent sector treatment centres have been accused of being a waste of money because thousands of procedures which the NHS has already paid private providers for have not been done.

Sean Morgan, head of performance at London SHA, said the latest deals would help to end long waits for diagnostics in London

Mr Morgan said: 'Feedback is that GPs are in favour of additional access.'

But GPs said London already had a wide selection of hospitals and these would be destabilised by the extra treatment centres.

Dr Sam Everington, deputy chair of the BMA and a GP in east London, said the NHS could provide the extra capacity 'with minimal amounts of extra money'.

He said: 'Everyone agrees we need more capacity and facilities to do more surgery and diagnostics, but ISTCs are not good value for money and the message it gives to the NHS is not one of confidence.'

Dr Fay Wilson, secretary of seven LMCs in west London, said there were already too many hospitals in the capital.

Adding extra capacity in the hospital sector just as PCTs were trying to curtail GP referrals to save money was 'extraordinary', she added.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GP in Stanmore, Middlesex, said there had been little or no communication with GPs about the move, despite the fact they would be taking over NHS budgets through practice-based commissioning.

He said: 'This simply does not fit with the whole ethos of practices leading commissioning decisions. The whole issue of ISTCs and tendering for them should be a core commissioning issue.'

The first contract, to provide diagnostic services from 96 sites across London, was awarded to joint-venture company Amicus InHealth, which includes South African firm Netcare.

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