Researchers claim £927m could have been overpaid for private contracts
Three Scottish health boards may have overpaid as much as £3m for a private treatment centre in the first year of its contract, according to research.
The British Medical Journal, which published the findings, said all future private health contracts should be put on hold pending an investigation.
Academics studied a contract between NHS Tayside and Amicus Healthcare for services at Stracathro Hospital.
They said the firm was paid a set fee, however many patients it treated.
The report said Stracathro Hospital, which has also been used by NHS Grampian and NHS Fife, may not have treated the contracted number of patients.
The researchers said that if the situation at Stracathro was replicated at private treatment centres in England then £927m could have been overpaid.
Freedom of Information legislation was used to obtain details of the contract, and the research into the work at Stracathro was carried out by Allyson Pollock and Graham Kirkwood at Edinburgh University.
Their report stated: "The release and analysis of the contract in Scotland provides no evidence to support the claim that the Scottish centre is efficient or good value for money.
"Rather, data from the Information Services Division suggest that the centre may have been paid up to £3m for patients who did not receive treatment."
The researchers also stated: "This contract shows that the complex payment mechanism, far from transferring risk to the private sector, increases the risks and costs to the health boards."
"The time has come to call a moratorium on ISTC (Independent Sector Treatment Centre) contracts until all the existing contracts have been published, and the centres properly assessed and investigated."
Amicus Healthcare (Scotland) is a subsidiary of Netcare UK.