Government Taskforce report “good news for patients” says IHPN

The Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) has welcomed a report published today by the Government’s Elective Recovery Taskforce as “good news for patients”.

The Taskforce was established in December 2022 to explore ways to maximise the contribution and capacity of the independent sector to tackle NHS waiting lists, and to highlight practical ways that the independent sector can be more powerfully utilised, including making it easier for patients to exercise their legal right to choose independent providers for NHS treatments. 

IHPN is a member of the taskforce, representing the voice of independent healthcare providers – whether they are working in specialist or acute hospital contexts, or more widely, across primary care, community services and diagnostics.

The independent sector is already a crucial part of the healthcare landscape, providing vital NHS services in partnership with the NHS, as well as supporting patients who have chosen private care.

While there is significant expertise and potential within the independent sector – independent providers already provide millions of scans, tests, surgical procedures and consultations – the taskforce report, published today, will pave the way to removing barriers which are sometimes preventing independent providers from making the fullest contribution to tackling the backlogs.

The report highlights that patients should be able, empowered and encouraged to access the right information, to help them make informed choices about their best care options, and remove barriers which are sometimes preventing independent providers from making the fullest contribution to tackling the backlogs.

Key elements include:

– Changes to patient and clinician-facing resources to make it easier for patients to manage their own care and make informed choices about which providers they can use

– A public-facing communications campaign to ensure patients know about their rights to choose

– Making changes to the ways that the NHS and independent sector work together, including how NHS services are commissioned so that it is easier for providers to begin providing NHS services, or expand into new areas and specialties

– The announcement that eight independent sector-led Community Diagnostic Centres have been given the green light.

David Hare, Chief Executive of IHPN, who sat on the Taskforce, said: “The publication of this report is good news for patients. This is a real, significant step forward to unlocking more of the potential of the independent sector, for the benefit of patients.

Today’s report builds on the Prime Minister’s recent welcome announcements about how the government is committed to providing patients with better choice over who provides their NHS care, as well as positive changes in how services are procured, which can help add overall capacity and speed up waiting times for NHS patients.

“The commitment to open further independent sector-led Community Diagnostic Centres is also good news, deploying some of the private capital that is available to build new facilities and to help ensure that more NHS patients can get the tests and scans that they need.”

“It is a good start to providing genuinely additional capacity in terms of diagnostic tests – which we know many patients are waiting for. It’s an effective and value for money way to deliver these services – levering in private sector capital and expertise over the long term.”

On the next steps, Hare adds: “One of the key features of the taskforce we have felt, over the past four months, has been the spirit of collaboration and shared endeavour.   

“The target now must be delivering the translation of the shared priorities from this report out into the real world. It’s going to take effort and commitment, particularly from GPs and partners in the NHS, and patients will undoubtedly need more support and education, but the potential benefits for patients are huge, and the independent sector stands ready to support.”