Exclusive: The Department of Health has revealed a step-change in the outsourcing of NHS services to outside providers, with almost 70% of the providers approved under Any Qualified Provider to provide community services from independent or third-sector providers.
Pulse can reveal that private companies outnumber NHS providers by two to one under the rollout of AQP across the country for community and mental health services.
Official DH figures show that 87 providers have qualified under AQP and are now able to provide services across England, of which 38 were from the independent sector and just 26 were NHS.
The remainder were from the third-sector, with 18 charities, four social enterprises and one voluntary sector organisation on the list of approved providers for services such as podiatry, adult hearing and musculoskeletal services.
PCTs were tasked by the DH with selecting three community or mental health services to put out to AQP by September as part of the Government’s drive to increase competition by expanding the choice of providers that patients can choose.
Over 2,000 applications were received to date from providers wishing to offer these services, and these DH figures are the first to show which type of providers have been most successful.
The DH said all successful providers had met ‘rigorous’ quality requirements and that prices paid to providers would be set in advance by the NHS, either at a national tariff or a locally agreed price.
In total, 400 outlets will be covering 30 separate types of community services. The DH said that currently there are 79 services operational in 51 areas of the country.
Health minister Earl Howe said: ‘Giving patients more choice and more control in their healthcare through Any Qualified Provider is an essential part of the Government’s work to put the NHS on the side of patients.’
‘It will encourage greater innovation, improve performance in the health service, and drive up the quality of care.’
BMA Council member Dr Louise Irvine, a GP in Lewisham, east London, said the figures were worrying as it showed the outsourcing of NHS services was accelerating.
She said: ‘We are going to end up with a situation where Serco and G4S and maybe Care UK, companies like that are going to end up progressively to take this market.
‘I am very worried because this is just accelerating very quickly, it is going to lead to greater fragmentation of services and undermine local NHS providers.’
AQP breakdown, qualified providers to date:
Independent sector: 38
Voluntary sector: 1
Social enterprise: 4