Trusts are damaging patient care by failing to commission services from a wide range of companies, a think-tank has claimed.

A year-long study by Civitas found trusts are “self-serving” even when “faster, higher quality care is on offer elsewhere”.

Health organisations can buy services from a range of providers, including those offered by the NHS or privately run firms.

The government plans to abolish health trusts and hand GPs control of commissioning services.

The report, Refusing Treatment, said the way the system is set up means patients are forced to wait and are not given access to the best services.

It was based on 46 interviews with executives at a range of health trusts, practice-based commissioners and in the private sector.

Researchers said the idea of the “market” in the NHS was currently being hampered by admiration of the NHS.

“There is a deep cultural reverence for the NHS as something more than a health system,” the report said.

“The emotive notion of the ‘NHS family’ encourages a counter-productive ‘us versus them’ attitude with regard to the private and voluntary sectors, and has been used in the words of one official ‘by most people in most places to try to block ‘the market’.’

“We found this to be the most important factor in stifling the market.”

Co-author James Gubb added: “The coalition government has put a lot of faith in the power of the market to meet the NHS’s unnerving productivity challenge.

“The problem is the coalition isn’t addressing the real issues as to why the market currently isn’t delivering: the overwhelming power of hospitals and the closed-shop “we can do it alone because we’re the NHS” attitude so prevalent across the organisation.”

NHS Partners Network director David Worskett said: “The NHS faces the most unprecedented funding squeeze in its history and in this climate needs to make sure that it procures the best possible value for money for patients and taxpayers.

“We are also moving to a system of GP commissioning. The vast majority of GPs, as guardians of public money, must be relied on to deliver the best services they can - regardless of what type of firm provides it - with the funding they have been given.”