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Monday, 12 June, 2000, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
Private firms to run 'failing' hospitals
Hospital Ward
The private sector could be asked to help failing Trusts
Managers of private hospitals have said they will consider stepping in to help failing NHS Trusts.

The Government is expected to announce plans to allow private firms to run failing NHS hospitals, next month when ministers unveil the National Plan for the NHS.

Private firms already manage state schools but ministers are looking to extend this policy to allow the private sector to take a role in running NHS Trusts.

According to newspaper reports, the move is seen as a bid by Prime Minister Tony Blair to tackle postcode lottery in care and low standards at some hospitals.

Both BMI healthcare, which runs 43 private acute hospitals, and BUPA said they will wait to see further details of the Government's plans.

Nigel Harris, managing director of BMI, said the company had experience of achieving high standards.

"We have the skills and the culture of high standards such as Hospital Quality Standards to meet the needs of any best management practices in healthcare.

"We look forward to the detail of the government's plans."

A BUPA spokesman said: "The level of co-operation between the NHS and private sector in some areas is good and is improving in others.

"If this can be extended in a practical way to the greater benefit of the patient then we would welcome the opportunity to discuss in what ways we might be able to work with the NHS."

A spokesman for the Independent Healthcare Association, which represents private hospitals, added: "Partnership between the NHS and the private sector is likely to take many forms and the management of NHS hospitals by the private sector may be one of them."

Criticism

But moves to give the private sector a role within the NHS were criticised by Labour MP and chairman of the Common's Health Select Committee David Hinchliffe.


Hinchliffe
Hinchliffe: criticised the plans

Mr Hinchliffe said he would "not be very happy" if the proposal was part of the National Plan for the NHS.

"I'm not keen on bringing in people from outside, unless they have some relevance to the direction the service is taking and some sympathy with the broad objectives of the NHS.

"Many people brought in by the previous government from commerce and private enterprise didn't have the least idea of what the NHS was about," he said.

Liam Fox, Tory shadow health spokesman, said: "It has apparently taken Tony Blair six hours of thinking a day for 10 days to recognise what every politician in the rest of Europe understands, namely that a partnership between the public and private healthcare sectors is beneficial."

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See also:

06 Jun 00 | Health
NHS 'must modernise'
31 May 00 | Health
Public quizzed over NHS
22 Mar 00 | Health
NHS reform: Blair takes charge
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