Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Private Treatment Centre for Basildon means Local Hospital Cuts

Basildon is to have a new Independent Sector Treatment Centre. This is a private mini-hospital, specialising in orthopaedics, with 18 in-patient beds and over a hundred staff. Surely this in unadulterated good news you think. Well, there are few niggles. First, this was dropped on Basildon by the Department of Health, with no local consultation whatsoever, not even with the local Health Trusts. Next, the funding model for private treatment centres pays on a per-patient basis. So, in terms of funding following patient, a spiral compound fracture to a 70-year old is identical to a clean break to a teenager. The money may be the same, but the complexity and duration of the medical treatment is radically different. Where Treatment Centres have opened in the past they have cherry-picked the straightforward cases, our teenager who needs to spend six weeks in a cast, and left the more complex ones to the NHS, like our pensioner who needs three operations and a year of rehabilitation. This hits the local hospitals hard, and Basildon Hospital estimates that it would lose about £10m per annum in funding and over a dozen staff. The third problem is that the private company doesn’t propose to build a new facility, instead they want convert some vacant warehouse/factory units. Our Planning Committee has already thrown out one application, but now they are back with another.

Now, I am a Tory, I have no problem with companies making money, or even making money from healthcare provided the treatment is up to scratch. I do have a problem with running a skewed health market where cost of treatment does not affect payment to provider, so the private sector can make money by just doing the simple cases and rely on the NHS to take on anything they don’t like the look of. As John Baron, the Conservative MP for Billericay has made clear, it’s not the private sector’s fault; it’s the government’s fault.

Forcing an ISTC onto Basildon could drain £millions away from our hospital which would harm staff training and morale, and ultimately the standard of patient care. No wonder Basildon hospital is against it. I will continue to press the government on this in the hope that it changes its mind. I would encourage all concerned residents to write to the government about this issue.

Our rabidly anti-capitalist Basildon Labour Party has kept quiet on this one, though not, to her credit, Angela Smith, who is the Labour MP for Basildon. Now she is at the heart of the Brown government maybe she can arrange to keep our local doctors and nurses in their jobs. We shall see.

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