BMA council chair, Professor Philip Banfield, has criticised the Government’s plans to “unlock capacity in the independent health sector” to tackle the COVID backlog. He claims that placing further reliance on the private sector is “an admission by this Government that the NHS is not adequately funded or resourced”.
Responding to the announcement, he commented: “If the Government paid doctors and other healthcare staff properly for the work they do in the NHS, we would have a more sustainable workforce and would not be in this position. Given that many private doctors work across both sectors, this solution is likely to stretch an already exhausted NHS workforce even further as the independent sector financial incentive will be all the more appealing in the context of years of NHS pay cuts and perverse pension taxation driving doctors away from NHS work.
“It is vital that there is effective engagement with doctors in private practice too, both in terms of the delivery of these plans and hospital support for private patients. For private patients also waiting for care, it is important that this is not disrupted as the Government shifts the backlog burden from the NHS onto the private sector.
“As we have seen with costly failings of outsourcing during the COVID pandemic, it is crucial that we have absolute transparency with any independent sector provider contracts to enable scrutiny of value for money and to ensure public resource is not wasted.
“While diagnostic hubs can be beneficial in clearing the backlog and getting patients seen earlier, it is imperative that this does not create additional or unfunded work for general practices who are already delivering more appointments with fewer GPs than pre-pandemic.”