Independent treatment centres have carried out fewer than three-quarters of the procedures they have been paid for, according to new figures from the Conservatives.

Independent treatment centres have carried out fewer than three-quarters of the procedures they have been paid for, according to new figures from the Conservatives.

And a separate analysis by HSJhas shown that they need to increase substantially the number of procedures they are carrying out in order to hit the government target of 171,000 elective procedures per year over five years.

HSJ's analysis suggests that until April the first-wave centres were performing fewer than 60 per cent of the procedures needed to be carried out on average annually in order to fulfil their contracts.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said that only 73 per cent of the procedures paid for had been carried out up to April - 59,960 in total.

The difference between the figures is because HSJhas looked at the work rate of the centres averaged over their contract length, while the Conservatives have obtained information about the number of procedures commissioned.

'The government has involved the independent sector without delivering value for money,' he said.

The Department of Health claimed that the situation had improved, with 87 per cent of the procedures paid for being carried out in July and that no money had been lost as the contracts run for around five years rather than month by month.

But HSJ's analysis shows that the programme has got off to a slow start, with almost every ITC performing fewer procedures than it needs to, averaged over the length of their contracts.

Bearing in mind the different opening dates of the centres, this amounts to an annualised total of only 46,073 procedures rather than the annual average of 78,242 over five years.

Excluding one centre which was closed mid-contract, it indicates that just 59 per cent of capacity is being used.

It is likely that many centres were asked to provide fewer operations in their early months, to allow for build-up of referrals.

The work rate is likely to improve as some ITCs originally operated in interim premises with limited capacity.