The government is reportedly scaling back independent sector treatment centres amid claims that they do not provide value for money.
York University research suggests the centres are seeing fewer patients from deprived areas, and that those they do see need fewer diagnoses and procedures.
Published in the journal Health Policy, the research says the centres “cherry pick” patients, leaving complex and more expensive cases to the NHS.
It says: “If treatment centres routinely treat patients with less complex needs, they may profit at the expense of NHS hospitals. If so, this would suggest that the payment system is unfair.
“If these observed differences between hospitals and treatment centres drive costs, then payments should be refined to ensure fair reimbursement.”