Published: 15/12/2005 Volume 115 No. 5986 Page 7

An independent treatment centre in Greater Manchester has lost the local health economy nearly£2m in its first six months, according to a confidential report seen by HSJ.

The report, a 'programme update' written by Greater Manchester surgical centre's contract management board, reveals that the 14 primary care trusts have had to shell out£1.9m to the treatment centre's South African operators Netcare, even though the centre is being underused by patients.

The centre, which opened in March, had been contracted to perform nearly 6,000 operations, but had carried out fewer than 4,000 by the end of September. But the terms of the contract mean the PCTs have been forced to pay for activity that has not been used.

John Critchley, director of finance and performance development at Oldham PCT, lead for the contract, said all the PCTs involved with the contract now needed to 'encourage as many patients as we can to use the centre'. Mr Critchley stressed that the 14 PCTs had individual responsibility to use the centre.

He said there would be a 'ramping up of activity' which would include 'risk-sharing and contingency arrangements' for the PCTs using the centre, although he did not give details.

Mr Critchley said Oldham PCT would review the contract in May after the centre had been open for a year to judge levels of use.

Of the commissioning PCTs, Ashton, Leigh and Wigan, has faced the biggest loss so far, paying nearly£500,000 to Netcare despite using only 67 of an anticipated 688 procedures.

In his November finance report to board directors, Ashton finance director David Wharfe admitted that the underspend is a 'major concern to the PCT, and does not represent value for money'.