Netcare shortlisted for NHS work

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The Independent Online

The National Health Service has turned to the South African healthcare provider Netcare to help meet its targets to reduce patient waiting times. The African company has been named preferred bidder on three five-year contracts to provide various diagnostic services to thousands of patients across the UK.

Netcare is Africa's largest private hospital and doctor network. In May, it significantly bolstered its UK operations when it purchased a controlling stake in General Healthcare Group, a provider of private acute care in the UK. The combined company owns almost 120 hospitals across the UK, with about 11,500 beds on offer.

Netcare has been named preferred bidder for the Cumbria & Lancashire capture assess and treatment scheme. The contract entails the delivery of 220,000 outpatient, diagnostic and minor surgical and non-surgical treatments across seven locatons. The contract is expected to commence during the second quarter of 2007. It will perform MRI and CT scans and prepare patients for surgery. The contract is one of 24 projects that form the NHS Independent Sector Treatment Centres Programme. The combined value of the deals is £2.5bn.

Netcare has also been named preferred bidder for the London Diagnostic Services and Eastern Regions Diagnostic Services contracts in conjunction with InHealth Group. The companies will provide a range of diagnostic radiology services, including MRI, X-ray, ultrasound and endoscopy, from more than 96 locations across London and the east of England.

The contracts represent two out of seven available as part of the NHS Diagnostics Programme. The project is worth a combined £1bn over five years.

Netcare said the contracts are almost concluded, pending final legal agreements. Netcare continues to tender for additional contracts as the NHS looks to reduce patient waiting times to 18 weeks by 2008.

Netcare, alongside other private healthcare providers, has had to contend with accusations that its clinical standards are lower than those of the NHS. Yet a Health Select Committee found that there was no evidence to support such contentions.