Private centres 'failing to provide health data'Leaked report raises questions over ISTCs

18 January 2007

 

A surgeon looks down upon a patient

Private treatment centres are failing to provide evidence on the quality of care they give NHS patients, according to a leaked report.

A Healthcare Commission study said data obtained from independent sector treatment centres (ISTCs) was of ‘extremely poor’ quality, even though they are contractually obliged to provide it.

The data covers areas like mortality rates, readmission rates and the number of cancelled operations.

The Commission's report, due to be published in full in the summer, will raise questions over the safety of patients in ISTC care.

Patient safety

ISTCs receive funding from the NHS and were introduced to help cut waiting lists and improve patient choice.

They carry out operations like hip replacements, ear, nose and throat treatment and cataract surgery.

ISTCs have caused controversy over claims they ‘cream off’ the easiest operations, leaving the NHS to struggle with the most complicated cases.

Other concerns are a loss of income for the NHS, low staff morale, and patients having to attend NHS hospitals for follow-up care.

‘Poor quality data’

Today's leaked report, seen by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), sets out the regulator's concerns.

The Healthcare Commission collects information on the performance of NHS and independent providers on behalf of the Department of Health.

Its report on ISTCs was commissioned during an investigation last year by the House of Commons Health Select Committee which concluded it was impossible to say whether ISTCs provided value for money.

Today's interim report revealed that ISTCs had either failed to provide data for the Commission's study or had provided data that was very poor.

It said: ‘The current nationally reported data on clinical quality is incomplete and of extremely poor quality.’

Regulate services

Head of Improvement at the Commission, Gary Needle, told the HSJ: ‘Effective governance is compromised by the lack of good quality data.

‘It is a contractual requirement for organisations to fill in national data returns, but this is not happening in every case.

‘Having this data is critical to effectively manage and regulate these services.’

But the Department of Health insisted the document was now out of date and based on inaccurate information.

A spokeswoman said: ‘We asked the Healthcare Commission to do some work on clinical quality in the independent sector, but this is not complete. The draft report from the HCC is out of date and based on inaccurate information.

‘We have been working very closely with providers over the last year to improve the quality of data returns.

‘This applies not only to the future returns, but also to historical data. We look forward to a final report based on much improved evidence, rather than inaccurate and out-of-date information.’

Waiting times

She said the independent sector ‘has the same responsibility as the NHS’ to provide high quality care and have their services regulated by the Healthcare Commission.

She added: ‘The government remains fully committed to the mixed provider model - the independent sector has helped slash waiting times by delivering treatment to over 250,000 people.

 ‘The government wants to get to the point where the same data is being collected from all organisations who are providing care to NHS patients so that we can truly compare across sectors.’

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