Independent sector treatment centres. Fourth report of session 2005–06 volume 1 (2006)

The Health Select Committee published its report on independent sector treatment centres (ISTCs) on 13 July 2006. In its report, the committee concluded that there were major benefits to separating elective and emergency care in treatment centres where there was local agreement and need. However, the committee was not convinced that ISTCs provided better value for money over alternatives such as NHS treatment centres, partnership arrangements or greater use of NHS facilities out of hours.

It was suggested that ISTC providers were paid on average 11.2% more than the NHS equivalent cost. However, ISTCs did play a role in reducing the price paid for ‘spot purchases’ with private providers.

The committee felt that ISTCs had increased patient choice but that patients did not have sufficient information to make informed decisions. It also concluded that the threat of competition from the ISTCs may have had a significant effect on the NHS (albeit based on largely anecdotal evidence). The committee criticised the government for not commissioning a formal evaluation of the effect of competition from ISTCs on the NHS (House of Commons Health Committee, 2006).

A later study in 2011 suggested that patients undergoing surgery in ISTCs were slightly healthier and had less severe conditions than those undergoing surgery in NHS providers. The study suggested that outcomes were better in ISTCs, but those differences were small. The researchers suggested that their findings supported the theory that separating elective surgery from emergency care could improve quality and that the creation of ISTCs could have facilitated the implementation of new models of care in NHS providers (Chard et al, 2011).