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From The Socialist newspaper, 20 February 2008

Private clinics fail

PRIVATE CLINICS such as the independent sector treatment centres (ISTCs) are able to haul in a guaranteed income even if they treat hardly any patients. Such clinics are being paid in full even though, a recent survey suggests, they do as little as half of the work specified in their contracts.

The government set up such centres in a flourish to do minor surgery and diagnostic tests, claiming that this would cut waiting lists. However, the survey showed that just four of the 25 clinics set up in the first wave of clinics are doing enough work; some were doing as little as half their contracted deals.

The first group, unlike NHS hospitals, are given lucrative contracts that guarantee them an income. The government forces public hospitals to 'compete', both with each other and with the private sector, then pays them on the basis of how many people are treated.

Clinics such as ISTCs have a protected life within the NHS while the public sector has to fight off constant attempts to cut back on services through harsh financial requirements.

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