Regulator launches first investigation into NHS competition rules

Private hospital group complains over radiosurgery decisions

Health Editor

An NHS regulator has launched the first investigation into the controversial competition rules introduced under the Health and Social Care Act following a complaint from a leading private hospital group.

BMI Healthcare, which runs 65 private hospitals and four private treatment centres in Britain, has complained about purchasing decisions taken by NHS England in relation to one of its clinics in Sheffield which provides specialised radiotherapy for cancer patients.

The complaint is the first test of the section 75 regulations under the Act, introduced on 1 April, which determine when and how competition in the NHS should be used. Critics of the Act have claimed that section 75 would force commissioners to allow private providers to exploit the NHS for profit, leading to its eventual break up.

Thornbury Radiosurgery Centre in Sheffield, owned by BMI Healthcare jointly with Medical Equipment Solutions, alleges that it has been discriminated against by NHS England and by its predecessor body, the North of England Specialised Commissioning Group in Yorkshire and Humber.

The centre provides radiosurgery employing sophisticated machines such as a £2.5 million Gamma Knife, which beams radiation deep into the brain to burn away lesions and tumours. The treatment is used when brain tumours are too deep in the brain to be removed using conventional surgery.

There are five Gamma Knifes in the UK - three operated by the NHS and two by private operators. The treatment costs around £17,000 but neurosurgeons claim it provides better quality of life and lower nursing costs than the only alternative, Whole Brain Radiotherapy. A report in 2011 said the Gamma Knife treatment offered by BMI Thornbury was running at only 45 per cent capacity.

A review of radiotherapy services by the Department of Health in 2011 found fewer than a third of eligible cancer patients in the north of England received radiotherapy compared with over nine out of ten in north west London.

No details of the complaint from the Thornbury Centre were available today. Monitor, the NHS Foundation Trust regulator which will carry out the investigation, said its duty was to protect the interests of people who use NHS-funded services.

Catherine Davies, director of co-operation and competition, said: "We are investigating whether rules have been breached in the procurement of radiosurgery services. The investigation is at an early stage and Monitor has not yet reached a view as to whether there has been any breach of the rules."

The co-operation and competition rules state that commissioners must purchase services from the providers who are "best placed to deliver the needs of their patients" and "should promote patient choice including - where appropriate - choice of any willing provider."

In 2011, a 62 year old patient, Lynn Payne, was forced to pay £16,500 for Gamma Knife treatment at the BMI Thornbury Hospital in Sheffield after the East Midlands NHS Specialised Commissioning Group and her local primary care trust refused to fund it.

Her consultant told her that funding had been refused because her cancer had spread and she had three tumours needing treatment instead of one. A spokesperson for the Commissioning Group said decisions on who to treat were based on "clinical evidence of the benefits."

A spokesman for BMI Healthcare said: "Thornbury Radiosurgery Centre made the complaint because we believe that patient care and choice has been compromised by purchasing decisions taken by NHS England and its predecessor body North of England Specialised Commissioning Group in Yorkshire and Humber."

A spokesperson for NHS England, said: "We will be working closely with Monitor to provide them with all the information they need to help with their investigation."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?