Lansley condemns commissioners as 'cynical' over choice restrictions
Health secretary Andrew Lansley today said primary care trusts “game the system” to “delay treatment”, in response to the Co-operation and Competition Panel’s investigation of choice in elective care.
The advisory panel, which assessed complaints from independent sector providers, found PCTs were saving money by “excessively constraining patients’ ability to choose”.
Mr Lansley condemned measures, including the setting of minimum waiting times, which many PCTs say is justified as they attempt to balance their books.
In a statement Mr Lansley said: “Too many PCTs have been operating in a cynical environment where they can game the system – and in which political targets, particularly the maximum 18 week waiting time target, are used to actually delay treatment.
“When GPs, specialist doctors and nurses are making the decisions, as they will under our [Health Bill] plans, they will plan care on the basis of the clinical needs of patients and their right to access the best service, including the least possible waiting time.”
However, PCT Network director David Stout said the panel’s claims that PCTs were extending waiting times in the hope that patients opt to go private or potentially die while waiting would “cause unnecessary public anxiety and alarm”.
“As financial constraints loom over the NHS, commissioners are finding they have to make difficult decisions about priorities while seeking to maintain high quality services,” he said.
“But where these decisions are being made it is essential PCTs and doctors are clear with their patients and local communities from the outset about what services are and are not available to them, and how long they can expect to wait for treatment