Private firms reveal PCT commissioning vision

Companies shortlisted in the government's framework for external support for commissioners (FESC) would use US healthcare models to plan services in England.

Representatives from the independent sector set out their plans at an NHS Alliance-backed conference in London last month.

UnitedHealth Europe's chief executive Richard Smith said PCTs did not have the skills to improve commissioning, and that the private sector could add value by bringing in partners as well as 'reducing care variation and driving out waste'.

The private sector could strengthen commissioning by bringing experience from other health systems such as the US, said Mr Smith.

Peter Greengross, director of strategic commissioning, Humana Europe, explained it would commission services using information on population health risk and financial risk.

It plans to target people before they become ill using PCT data. For example, one idea that could be imported was fitting patients with heart monitors and rewarding them with money-off coupons for doing extra exercise.

Mr Smith said he favoured competition between firms in the FESC, saying it would improve quality and costs.

'With such complex problems you benefit from having as many sets of competencies as possible.'

Felicity Cox, commissioning lead for NHS networks, which promotes the networks that exist throughout the NHS, said that one advantage of the FESC would be that the firms involved would not be 'scared of private providers in the same way as NHS commissioners'.

However, Mr Smith warned it would not be easy for the private sector to enter primary care. He said that firms could expect similar questioning of their reputations as UnitedHealth had faced.

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