Bottomley orders more NHS use of private care

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HEALTH SERVICE managers were ordered by the Government yesterday to send more patients to private hospitals for treatment if prices are competitive and NHS standards can be guaranteed, writes Judy Jones.

Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, signalled to a conference of business people and industrialists in London that the role of the NHS was rapidly changing. Although the NHS would continue to provide the 'great majority' of the work it currently does, independent contractors would take a growing share of the state health care market.

'The end result is still an NHS service but perhaps differently provided, and hopefully better,' she told her audience of CBI members.

The search for the best deal must embrace all aspects of the service. Currently, pounds 2.5bn of the pounds 5bn a year spent on non-clinical services was subject to market testing.

'There is no arbitrary line dictating what should or should not be subject to this. I want to see management, including professionals, looking at every area of work within the NHS and asking themselves, 'is this the best way to achieve this goal'.'

While the NHS was 'not for profit and not for sale', the service had to change if it was to avoid fossilising.

'I would certainly veto any involvement with the private sector which contravened the fundamental principles and ethos that care must be provided on the basis of clinical need irrespective of the ability to pay.'

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