UK Government gives private companies a bigger role in Health Diagnostics

The UK government is looking to engage independent providers in order to reduce the waiting list for treatment.

On Friday, the “elective Recovery Task Force” will publish its final report and announce the decision to increase the role of private sector in centers that provide check-ins and scans.

The government stated that when Rishi Sunak created the taskforce in December last year, its recommendations “would help unlock spare capacity within the independent sector and bust Covid-19 backlogs to reduce waiting times”.

The government pledged to open 160 community diagnostic centers (CDCs) before March 2025. So far, 108 CDCs have been opened. Some are run by NHS providers and others in partnership with private providers. So far, only a few centres are fully private.

The CDCs assets are not included in the budget of the Health Department and therefore are “off-balance sheet”. The NHS is facing a severe capital shortage with an estimated maintenance backlog of more than £10bn.

CDCs have been hailed as a successful initiative by the NHS and the government. They are also popular among the public. The first centres will be established in July 2020 to reduce the long treatment queues that have been caused by the Covid Pandemic.

The health department reported that CDCs delivered over 4mn tests, scans and checks to patients in June. “This has cut waiting lists for care and given patients faster access,” the department stated.

Sunak visited a CDC, developed in partnership with Alliance Medical (a medical imaging specialist), in Oldham, Greater Manchester in February. The company provided a variety of diagnostic equipment, including a PET CT scanner. This was the first PET-CT available in the region.

Alliance Medical is a major private provider that partners with NHS to run CDCs. Diagnostics specialist InHealth Group has worked with the NHS for over 30 years.

Sunak said CDCs like Oldham “make a major difference” in cutting waiting list — one of his “five priorities” for the government, as he prepares to hold a general elections expected next year.

The prime minister admitted on Wednesday that NHS waiting lists have increased in England since he assumed office in October. He blamed the increase in backlogs for routine hospital treatments, which had reached 7.9mn.

“We actually made progress. We eliminated the number two-year waiting staff. . . We were making progress in reducing the total number of people who waited one-and-a half years,” he said on LBC radio.

He said that the rise in waiting lists was due to strikes, not a lack of money.