Public sector union UNISON yesterday welcomed a government move to scrap six projected private treatment and diagnostic centres.
As well, the Department of Health (DoH) announced that another scheme, Care UK’s mobile diagnostic service for the West Midlands, which is already in operation, will have its contract cancelled.
However, the DOH also gave the green light to ten others, which will now join nearly 40 private treatment centres that are already open.
The DoH faces paying compensation to end the Care UK contract, but it said details of the arrangements are ‘commercially sensitive’.
Health secretary Alan Johnson said the Care UK centre contract had to be terminated because of ‘unacceptably low rates of use’.
A UNISON spokeswoman told News Line: ‘UNISON has always said that independent treatment centres do not provide good value for money.
‘Instead of bringing in private companies and paying over the odds for treatment, the government should put the money into building up capacity in the NHS.
‘By withdrawing these projects the government shows that these private centres haven’t delivered.
‘Yet it is still going ahead with other projects.
‘We still insist that the money would be better spent building up the NHS.’
The government has announced it is pulling out of the following projects: North East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire Referral Assessment Diagnostics and Treatment Service; North East Diagnostics; South East Diagnostics; Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridge Electives; Cumbria, and Lancashire Clinical Assessment and Treatment Services; and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Electives.
So far, ‘wave two’ of private treatment centres has cost £84m in legal fees and procurement costs, as well as the cost of a few schemes that have been given the go-ahead.
Johnson warned: ‘The reduction in the overall size of the procurement does not represent a change in policy.’
l Junior doctors yesterday held a vigil outside Portcullis House, Westminster where Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson was giving evidence to MPs on the House of Commons health committee.
The MPs are inquiring into the government’s new training arrangements called Modernising Medical Careers.
The doctors warned that 14,000 juniors are without jobs and are likely not to get training posts in 2008.
Lindsey Cooke, from Mums4medics told News Line: ‘Medicine is not just a job; it’s a vocation.
‘You have to start making a commitment from gaining your GCSEs onwards.
‘Then it is very, very tough training over many years, at the end of which you are left with £20,000 to £30,000 of debt from student loans.
‘The Senior House Officers (SHOs) are the workhorses of the NHS, and it is SHOs who are most affected.
‘We are losing some of the most experienced and dedicated staff. It is quite frankly a joke.’