Private companies will carry out up to 15% of NHS treatment in two years, a report released by the department of health predicts. This represents more than a five-fold increase to 1.25 million procedures per year by 2008/09.
  The report, released under the freedom of inform-ation act (FOIA), shows the huge rise of private health provision to the NHS planned by the government.
  It said that “independent sector treatment centres” would account for the bulk of the 1.6 million procedures needed to reach NHS waiting-time targets. Such treatment, while being provided by private health companies, remains free on the NHS to patients.
  The report predicts that this provision can be met by four providers each with at least 10 treatment centres throughout the country. This would “create healthy levels of local competition on a national scale.”
  In the past, it said, procedures by private health-care providers cost taxpayers 40% more than the NHS equivalent because the work was “spot purchasing” of “niche high-cost, low-throughput business”. It estimated that the premium of private treatment over NHS equivalent cost had fallen to 9% by 2003/04.
  But it warned that private health companies are in economic danger: “There is an emerging IST [independent sector treatment] market which is not sustainable with the current volumes and number of players. It needs to grow and/or consolidate, otherwise in four to seven years time it is likely to stagnate and ultimately collapse.”
  It also said that the capacity for growth relies on a “critical assumption” that registration processes are “streamlined to ensure easy access for qualified foreign consultants” from EU states and America.

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Private health care on NHS set to rise five-fold