Private healthcare providers are calling for a review of the recent transfer of their Department of Health contracts to primary care trusts, saying the negotiations were an “enormous waste” of time and money.

The end of June marked the deadline for companies offering elective procedures to NHS patients on the extended choice network or free choice network to move from national contracts to individual standard contracts with PCTs.

David Worskett, director of the NHS Partners Network, which represents independent sector providers to the health service, said about 40 per cent of PCTs did not sign the contracts until within 48 hours of the deadline.

“After working late into the night we eventually managed to get some 92 or 93 per cent of the contracts in place in time for the deadline for the switch from the extended choice network contracts,” he told HSJ.

“[Private providers] had to negotiate 150 contracts compared with four. It’s an enormous waste of taxpayers’ time and money, and businesses’ time and money,” he continued.

“It rather gives the lie to the claim that [the DH] wants to reduce bureaucracy.”

He added: “This is wasteful for the PCTs, especially at this time, and there should be a cheaper and more strategic way of doing things. In terms of the private sector, [there is] the additional cost of doing business. What we need now is a review of what happened this year, so that we can get a more standard contract next time, and better value for money.”

The DH, he suggested, should “ask whether negotiating the contracts in this way added value for anyone”.

David Stout, deputy chief executive of the NHS Confederation and director of the PCT Network, said there were “probably some lessons to be learned”, particularly given government plans to extend choice of ‘any qualified provider’ to new areas of NHS provision.

“There are some questions about where local variation adds value, and where it’s just done for the sake of it,” he said. “We’re going to have to think about that again in the any qualified provider setting. As management costs are squeezed more and more for commissioners, as well as on the provider end, we’ve got to take that very seriously.”

But he said any contract had to be signed by two parties, and “leaving it to the last minute is often a case of things not getting agreed by both parties”.

A DH spokesperson said: “The transfer to the standard contract strengthens commissioners’ ability to manage quality and helps ensure NHS and independent providers are treated equally.

“Thanks to the hard work of PCTs and providers, the transfer was completed successfully,” the spokesperson said.