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Scotland NHS appoints first private provider

Published on 06/07/06 at 05:54pm

Scotland's health service is set to appoint its first private provider to cut surgery waiting times, following the controversial policy pioneered in England.

Amicus Healthcare is likely to run the Scottish Regional Treatment Centre at Stracathro Hospital in Angus, under a three-year, five million pounds a year contract.

The centre will carry out minor surgery on NHS patients from Tayside, Fife and Grampian and could start work as early as August.

The news has been heavily criticised by health unions and the leader of the BMA Scotland, Dr Peter Terry, a staunch opponent of a competition-driven NHS.

Dr Terry says the move could be a first step on a slippery slope, but believes use of private providers in Scotland will not become widespread and that, in contrast to England, primary care in Scotland will not face competition for the foreseeable future.

The NHS in England has been using private companies to run fast-track treatment centres since 2003, and health service leaders and Whitehall claim their introduction has helped reduce waiting lists significantly.

The use of private providers is now expanding into primary care in England, but BMA Scotland's Dr Terry believes the model will eventually be abandoned.

He commented: "The English system of commissioning will ultimately fail when the private companies do not make sufficient profits and pull the plug. Then we can say 'we told you so'."

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