NHS England has agreed to commission a ‘significant range and volume’ of planned care from private hospitals over the coming months, following the failure of a national push to clear NHS waiting list backlogs over past months.
In a paper going to the national body’s board meeting today, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the private sector work would be purchased with unspent funds from the £250m released by the government earlier this year to clear NHS backlogs.
The “tripartite” of NHS England, Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority have promised to underwrite trusts’ spending on referrals to private providers that they would not otherwise be able to fund.
A Monitor spokesman said that £30m of as yet unallocated money from the £250m backlog funding has been set aside to pay for approximately 30,000 procedures.
The tripartite plans to allocate the money for procedures to take place between December and the end of the financial year in March 2015.
The spokesman added: “Patients will only be offered the choice to transfer if it is clinically appropriate.”
Mr Stevens’ report to the board states: “It is… apparent that NHS providers have not uniformly been able to deliver the extra volumes of elective activity they contracted to provide during the autumn.
“So the TDA, Monitor and NHS England will now be working with individual hospitals that have not met their commitments to ensure that patients on their waiting lists are offered alternative treatment options, funded from the original £250m allocation.”
A performance report to the same board meeting adds: “There is evidence that not all the activity NHS trusts agreed has been delivered during the months June-November when the backlog reduction was to take place.
“We continue to work with NHS trusts, but we have also agreed a significant range and volume of activity to be delivered by the Independent Sector over the coming months.
“Further action is in hand to review and reprofile additional activity in places where it has not yet been delivered, so that the standards will continue to be met on a sustainable basis.”
The announcement comes after it was revealed that the number of patients waiting over 18 weeks for elective treatments went up in October, despite the £250m investment in extra procedures.