Published: 20/03/2003, Volume II3, No. 5847 Page 23

HSJ 's news focus 'Capital transfer' (pages 13-14, 6 March) raises some interesting issues around the drive for additional capacity in the NHS, but we would like to offer clarification about the Department of Health's plan and approach in this area.

There are a number of major initiatives in place to increase NHS capacity to reduce waiting times and offer greater patient choice in secondary care.

This extra capacity is being created in several ways, including the creation of new diagnostic and treatment centres which will be provided both directly by the NHS and through procurement from UK and overseas independent providers.

There are already firm plans within the DTC programme to deliver at least 250,000 additional finished consultant episodes a year by April 2005.

A dozen DTCs are open now, reducing waiting times.

The independent providers' DTC programme, however, is certainly not a cash cow for the commercial sector. The biggest elective care procurement exercise for the NHS is being run systematically and professionally by a dedicated team which has extensive commercial, clinical and procurement expertise. The independent sector has responded enthusiastically to December's Official Journal of the European Community, allowing us to conduct a thorough and competitive procurement.

A key objective for this team is attracting innovative and valuefor-money solutions to the provision of clinical services for elective procedures. This exercise is not simply about paying the current private sector tariff, but looking for real savings through original thinking and good operating practice that will deliver exceptional throughput and high quality care.

Ken Anderson Independent DTC national implementation team director, Bob Ricketts Capacity, plurality and choice head Department of Health