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March 4, 2013 12:03 am
The sums the NHS spent on buying care from the private or voluntary sectors rose by more than 10 per cent last year, according to data published on Monday.
However, the year-on-year increase concealed marked variations in the sums spent by different parts of the health service – with spending on primary care services, for example, falling by more than a quarter.
The latest data, produced by Laing & Buisson, which specialises in providing intelligence about the healthcare market, comes amid fresh concern within the medical profession about whether the NHS reforms will lead to the private sector playing a bigger role in providing state-funded care.
The Observer newspaper reported on Sunday that the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges had written to Lord Howe, health minister, expressing concerns that regulations tabled as part of the Health and Social Care Act meant that groups of clinicians would be obliged to put all services out to tender when they took over the purchase of care for patients from April 1.
Department of Health officials insisted there had been no shift of policy, but acknowledged that ministers were considering changing the wording of the regulations to reassure critics this was not their intent.
According to Laing & Buisson’s publication, NHS Financial Information 2013, total NHS spending on healthcare services supplied by the independent sector – covering private companies and voluntary organisations – was estimated at £5.9bn in 2011-12. This represents about 6.5 per cent of the £90.7bn total healthcare spending by primary care trusts in England during that period.
Driving the increase was growth of more than a third in spending on independent community services, which stood at £1.5bn. Strong growth was also recorded in general and acute health service spending, which rose by nearly a fifth to £1.6bn.
However, as well as a sharp fall in spending on primary care services, there was another sharp decline in spending on learning difficulties provision from the private sector, while spending on mental healthcare was static.
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