Private-sector diagnostic plan not ready to start

The first diagnostic service due to be delivered by private provider Mercury Health in the West Midlands was delayed indefinitely last week.

Mercury was unable to start providing audiology diagnostics to the region as planned after conditions for the scheme’s start-up were thought not to have been met.

Before Mercury can start to provide services, a statement of readiness to begin services has to be signed off.

But PCTs in the West Midlands were told that the statement had not been finalised.

‘It is at the mercy of the DoH,’ said Claire Old, director of commissioning for Telford PCT.

In Telford, temporary cover will come from the local provider, Shropshire and Telford Acute Hospitals Trust.

Mercury Health is due to provide the West Midlands with an extended menu of 190,000 additional diagnostic procedures from 31 May, including sigmoidoscopy, radiology and echocardiography as well as audiology.

GPs have criticised the deal as unnecessary and a waste of money.

Dr Simon Parkinson, chairman of West Midlands LMCs, said that in Worcestershire waits for services offered were low. GPs can refer patients where they like for diagnostics, he said.

Dr Parkinson said that the cost was being held at an artificial level because infrastructure costs were being borne by West Midlands SHA and the PCT was paying the national tariff.

Mercury, taken over last week by Care UK, was unavailable for comment.

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