Tough new standards for private healthcare firms will slash waiting times and improve care for NHS patients in Wakefield, health bosses say.
Wakefield CCG wants companies to prove they can offer an entire course of treatment for people with certain conditions, to stop patients being passed between different providers.
Several firms currently carry out services such as hand surgery, endoscopies and gynaecology treatment, on behalf of the local NHS.
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While patients can get these operations at Pinderfields or Pontefract hospitals, they can often have them done quicker and closer to home with an alternative provider.
But with most of those contracts expiring later this year, companies bidding for work again will have to show they can look after a patient themselves without moving them on after one stage of treatment.
The move has prompted an angry backlash from the providers, however. They say that it could increase waiting times rather than reduce them. There are also concerns that patient choices for where and how they are seen would be limited.
Explaining the move, clinical advisor for the CCG Dr Greg Connor, said: “It’s important that the services we commission are to a consistently high quality regardless of where people live across the area and that they offer the best care possible.
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“Contracts are awarded for a time-limited period and this provides the opportunity to review them and make sure they still meet the needs of the people of Wakefield district.”
An online petition against the plans has been started by Phoenix Healthcare, who are based in South Emsall. This has been signed by 979 people at the time of writing.
On the petition, the company said: “We disagree with the Wakefield CCG proposal as we feel it will lengthen waiting times, place further pressure on the hospital and require patients to travel to hospital rather than being seen in the community.”
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Although Phoenix claim that the CCG did not ask patients about the plans, the CCG has now published results from a consultation which was carried out last month.
Of those who offered comments, nearly 88 per cent had been referred to a private provider as part of their treatment.
Some said they liked private services because of shorter waiting times while others said they were worried about the prospect of travelling to Pinderfields Hospital for an operation.