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NHS ‘tunnel vision’ preventing cost-effective commissioning, claims private sector leader

A climate of 'risk aversion' among GP commissioners and PCTs is preventing independent providers from gaining a foothold in care provision, claimed leading industry figures today.

Representatives from charities and private companies, including David Worskett, director of the NHS Partners Network, told delegates at the Westminster Health Forum today that the NHS was stifling innovation in healthcare provision by avoiding the use of alternative providers.

Mr Worskett complained: ‘We hear that we have to learn to do things "differently" to make things work within the budget... but I think there's enormous risk aversion [in the NHS],' Worksett said. ‘There is a great fear of getting things wrong. The NHS is not a very forgiving environment to try things out. It is more of a blame culture and that gets in the way.'

Private and voluntary sector providers offering NHS treatment operate with a 14% cost disadvantage compared to public sector providers, but have to battle against a lack of awareness of their abilities among PCTs and GP commissioners, as well as ‘just plain unimaginative commissioning', Worskett also claimed.

Mr Worskett's concerns were echoed by Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of health charity coalition National Voices, who said the pressure on the NHS to make £20bn efficiency savings had fostered a ‘tunnel vision' commissioning culture that stifles innovation and threatens the future of small independent providers.

‘The tunnel vision that is induced by QIPP and the Nicholson challenge does not promote innovation,' Taylor said. ‘There is a danger for small providers, not just voluntary sector providers, that they will go, and in fact are going, to the wall. They should be part of Any Qualifying Provider but instead they are closing. That is a reason to worry.'