It was most disappointing to read of the health select committee chair's attitude towards the private sector (news focus, 8 April).

In these days of public-private partnership it seems astonishing that those in such positions of influence still seek to turn the clock back to the bleak days of confrontation and competition.

Indeed, David Hinchliffe seems in espousing these views to be at odds with his own party and government.

This government has adopted and improved the notion of public-private partnership, including in the NHS, so that it is now the principal means of securing capital investment for hospital development.

Such remarks as those reported by HSJ can only lead to increased concern on the part of potential investors, to the detriment of the NHS and its patients.

Far better, in the Institute of Health Services Management's view, would be to welcome the positive contribution to the healthcare of the country made by the private sector, while acknowledging the continuing need to seek improvements in both the public and private sectors.

Events such as those at Bristol and Hythe show the timeliness of the introduction of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence and its potential to apply to both sectors.

We would clearly wish the new constructive spirit of co-operation to prevail over the stale old attitude of confrontation.

The independent sector reference group will be holding a reception at the IHSM annual conference on 10 June to which all who may wish to discuss this and other matters of interest are welcome.

Nigel Draper


IHSM independent sector reference group