LMCs call for an end to ISTCs

LMCs have called for an immediate halt to the government’s programme of building and opening independent treatment centres (ISTCs) on the grounds that they destablise local services, have poor management structures that ignore GP feedback and stop GPs in practice-based commissioning groups from commissioning better value providers.

Dr Marcus Bicknell from Nottinghamshire LMC, told delegates that his own experience of ISTCs was that they have cherry-picked the easy cases at the expense of the local acute provider and that they offer no training to junior doctors.

He told delegates that the introduction of ISTCs was 'privatisation of the NHS through the front door'.

'You can imagine our fury a couple of years ago when it was announced that an ISTC was to be built in the grounds of our largest teaching hospital, tying up and pre-committing our practice-based commissioning budget for the next five years with a contract over which we have no influence, destabilising our hospitals, .. and placing many staff in fear of their jobs and their futures. Taking huge resources out of the NHS and placing them with a profit-making multinational private provider,' he said.

'It transpired that some of the PCT leads were aware of the plans for the ISTC and many of whom were involved in negotiating the contracts, many are now employed by the multinationals to set it up and get it running.

'This is a shameful situation. It perfectly demonstrates what is wrong with the NHS at the present time: behind the scenes political interference, and self-interest of carpet-baggers have combined with administrative incompetence in PCTs to rob the NHS of resources. This is frustrating our attempts to bring about change via practice-based commissioning and undermining the viability of teaching hospitals and the staff who work there.'

Dr Bicknell pointed out that his local orthopaedics ISTC runs at 70-80 per cent capacity.

'If that isn't inefficient, if that isn't poorly managed, if that isn't a shambles, if that isn't a waste of money, what is?'

A lone voice, Dr Jane Godbehere from Avon, objected that destabilising was actually healthy but that it should be done through practice-based commissioning.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the GPC subcommittee, supported the move, pointing out that the government has admitted that procedures cost 11 per cent more per procedure in an ISTC than in an acute hospital.

What do you think? Comment below or email healthcare.republic@haymarket.com

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