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CCGs spending hundreds of millions more on private sector treatment

Exclusive There has been an 18% overall increase in the amount spent on NHS care delivered at private hospitals over the past three years, a major Pulse investigation has revealed.

A freedom of information request answered by 83 CCGs reveal that CCGs spend £6.2m each on average in 2015/16 on elective procedures in private hospitals – compared £5.2m in 2013/14.

Extrapolated across England, this is an increase of more than £200m over the past three years.

Many CCGs had much bigger increases – the majority saw at least a 30% hike and eight CCGs more than doubled the amount they paid private hospitals in 2015/16 compared with 2013/14.

The figures come as part of a larger investigation into private companies benefitting from long NHS waiting lists, which found that some companies are doubling their profits.

It has also revealed trusts are doing more private work than they have in the past, despite waiting lists being at their worst since December 2007.

The FOI request to CCGs revealed that the 83 who answered the questions spent millions on NHS care treated at private hospitals:

  • 2013/14: £434.6m (average: £5.2m per CCG)
  • 2014/15: £472.6m (average: £5.7m per CCG)
  • 2015/16: £513.1m (average: £6.2m per CCG)

The CCGs themselves state that they have to use private providers because of waiting list pressures at NHS providers.

NHS Walsall CCG, for example, has seen a 175% jump in spend on privately delivered care, from £1.6m to £4.4m, after it was forced to take ‘remedial action’ under NHS England direction to clear a backlog of operations at the local acute trust.

Paul Maubach, accountable officer at the CCG, said the main reason for the rise was ‘the significant pressure on our local trust to meet its constitutional referral-to-treatment targets to treat patients within 18 weeks’.

Others cite waiting list pressures. NHS Horsham and Mid Sussex CCG increased its spend on private providers doing elective care by 80%, from £800,000 in 2013/14 to £1.5m in 2015/16.

CCG chair Dr Minesh Patel puts this down to ‘GPs wanting to ensure timely care for patients as well as supporting the local acute provider to manage its own activity levels’.