The BMA have said that the new treatment centres introduced in April 2002 and trumpeted by a government report last week for reducing waiting times are 'destabilising' NHS hospitals.
Dr Paul Miller of the BMA's Consultants' Committee said: 'The BMA has always welcomed the possibility of treatment centres cutting waiting times and therefore benefiting patients whose quality of life is being seriously impaired while they wait for medical treatment. However, from the start we have raised concerns that treatment centres would destabilise NHS hospitals' economies and this is exactly what is happening.
He outlined specific concerns. 'We have heard of MRI scanners in NHS hospitals sitting unused while patients are scanned in mobile units in car parks outside. Hospitals will not be able to survive in a system of payment by results if workload is taken away. Patients get sick around the clock, seven days a week and hospitals must be fully resourced and staffed to cope with their needs. NHS hospitals provide this, they provide emergency services, they provide training and they deal with the most complicated cases. It is misleading for John Reid to claim that treatment centres provide services eight times faster than NHS hospitals.'
Secretary of State for Health John Reid and the report had claimed that the NHS carries out about five cataract removals per provider per day based on 2002-3 figures in contrast with the 39 cataract removals per day in the mobile cataract units. 'This higher rate is achievable because the units are able to concentrate on a single procedure in a modern, purpose built unit,' the report said.
Miller concluded: 'As doctors we are interested in providing patients with quality treatment as well as speedy treatment. If an emergency happens at three in the morning, patients go to NHS hospitals not treatment centres. If hospitals close where will they go?'
There are now 29 NHS Treatment Centres providing services to NHS patients. Over 106,000 patients have been treated in them so far. By the end of 2005, it is planned that there will be 80 Treatment Centres open across England.
John Reid sees treatment centres as central to the government's so-called choice agenda. He says: 'The Treatment Centre programme has a key role in delivering the Department of Health's commitment, outlined in the NHS Improvement Plan, to offer patients increased choice. From December 2005, patients in England will be offered a choice of four to five providers at the point that their GP decides treatment is necessary. From December 2008, this choice will be expanded offering patients a free choice of providers which will include Treatment Centres.'
Page created on January 10th, 2005
Page updated on December 1st, 2009