The privatisation con trick rolls on 

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NHS chiefs are pushing through plans to let private companies take over scanning services that are vital in treating cancer patients, having told ministers last week that privatisation was harming patient care.

Ten years ago I was screaming about the same thing.

My Polio specialist had sent me off for an MRI scan. Instead of having this done at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, I was sent to a nondescript venue, where a doctor explained as I had had polio it would be painful for me to lie on the metal scanning table.  Before I could tell him I had come armed with a strong pain killer – he sent me off for an X-ray instead – not what I wanted.

Which my polio specialist threw in the waste-paper basket – then phoned Charing Cross Hospital to say “I’ve got another one here – can you slide her in?”  Off I went to find that a properly-run NHS facility was to scan me – no X-ray nonsense.  But this must have been at 10-times the cost of an X-ray.

I kicked up a stink.  Only to find that this is now happening all over the NHS. And years later ……..

Is cancer care suffering?

The Churchill hospital, Oxford’s cancer centre, is reported in The Guardian as having  lost its contract to carry out PET-CT scans to InHealth, a private company, as part of the latest tendering process. These 3D scans inside the body help doctors spot tumours and check if cancer treatment is working.

The Guardian says “Doctors at the hospital are quoted as saying they were “disgusted” by the loss of the contract, warning that people receiving cancer treatment in the hospital will have to be taken by ambulance to two new locations at which InHealth’s scanners will be located. The decision has raised questions about NHS England’s professed desire to end the outsourcing of patient care, which it outlined in a detailed policy document released at a board meeting last week.

NHS England (NHSE) initiated the tender process “to save money”. And major teaching hospitals, including King’s College hospital in London, and cancer hospitals such as the Christie in Manchester, are also at risk of having PET-CT services handed to the private sector.

As The Guardian says, NHS England has invited profit-driven companies to bid against NHS trusts for contracts to provide PET-CT scanning in 11 different areas of England.“This latest NHS privatisation exposes as utterly hollow the health secretary’s promises to parliament that there will be no privatisation on his watch,” said Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health and social care secretary.

Last week, NHS England claimed it wanted to bring an end to the constant tendering of contracts that Andrew Lansley’s reorganisation ushered in. Patients will therefore consider it bewildering this privatisation has been allowed to proceed.

Tellingly, an oncologist is quoted as asking if another provider might offer scans more cheaply, but will they match the quality?

If my experience is anything to go by – probably not.  As this oncologist says, and I found out,  patients may end up needing re-scanning and, at the end of the day, ultimately it is patients who will suffer.  And has anyone costed in the time and transport costs of having to move patients off-site by Ambulance to be scanned?  Let alone disruption and delays caused to us?

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