Clinical services 'will stay within NHS'

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Indy Politics

Public Policy Editor

Doctors and nurses employed by National Health Service Trusts will continue to provide direct health care in the "overwhelming majority" of cases under the Government's private finance initiative, Stephen Dorrell, the Secretary of State for Health, said yesterday.

The private sector's role under the scheme - in which private finance and companies will be used to design, build, finance and operate NHS hospitals - will largely be limited to "the efficient management of efficient buildings", he said in a speech which sets broad limits to the private sector's involvement in providing NHS care.

"It is no part of the Government's policy to transfer the delivery of NHS clinical services into the private sector," Mr Dorrell told the Royal College of Physicians.

Its aim, at least in part, was to defuse Labour charges that the Government is progressively privatising the NHS.

With one of the first schemes, a pounds 26m 150-bed redevelopment of St James's Hospital in Leeds now with the Treasury for approval, Mr Dorrell said he anticipated " a regular flow" over the next few months of projects in which the private sector will build and manage NHS hospitals. But "the distinction between clinical services, on the one hand, and the supporting facilities, on the other, is fundamental to this issue", he said.

However, the Secretary of State still left the door open for the private sector to provide some clinical services and clinical support services, such as radiology and pathology. Where trusts have examined that, it is "a matter for local determination", Mr Dorrell said claiming that change "cannot be carried out without the support of local clinicians".

He maintained that it was "nothing to do with the PFI", which he said was "concerned with the provision of modern and efficient facilities for the delivery of health care . . .".