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Mon Nov 19, 2012, 07:28 AM

More NHS patients being treated by private firms, survey finds

Private firms now treat almost one in five NHS patients with certain conditions due to the last Labour government's embrace of competition, an authoritative study reveals.

Allowing profit-driven health firms to be paid out of NHS funds has seen private operators grow from doing very few state-funded procedures to now being a "significant" provider of care, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said in a report.

Private firms have made such inroads that independent sector treatment centres facilities set up to treat NHS patients now carry out 17% of hip replacements (11,500 operations), 17% of hernia repairs (9,000) and 6% of gall bladder removals (3,000) annually in England. Their share of NHS patients grew rapidly between 2006-07 and 2010-11 after Labour's promotion of patient choice.

By 2010-11 private providers also handled 8% of patients' first attendances in relation to orthopaedics or trauma, such as a broken limb; 4.8% of such attendances for gastroenterological problems; and 2.3% of attendances for sight problems.


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