07/01/2005

Reid hails mobile treatment centres as success

According to a report published today more than 120,000 patients have been treated since the start of the government's pioneering Treatment Centre programme, in some cases up to eight times faster than traditional NHS providers.

More than 10,000 of these patients had been treated in the "hospitals on wheels" which were opened by Health Secretary John Reid last year.

Mr Reid said the success of the programme had helped contribute to a massive fall in the numbers of people waiting for operations.

Figures published today show the lowest number of people on the waiting list since comparable data was first collected in September 1987.

The report found that under the Treatment Centre programme:
  • over 120,000 patients had received treatment;
  • some operations were carried out up to eight times faster than traditional NHS services;
  • new staff roles were being developed, such as peri-operative specalists and advanced nurse practitioners
Mr Reid said: "This report outlines the impressive progress made by the Treatment Centre programme to date and helps explain the continuing fall in waiting lists.

"Treatment Centres play an important role in speeding up access to treatment for patients and improving quality of care and patients' experience. This is shown by the mobile cataract chain treating 10,000 patients in less than 11 months - operating at a rate almost eight times faster than traditional NHS services. This higher rate is achievable because the units are able to concentrate on a single procedure in a modern, purpose built unit".

However, the Chairman of the BMA's Consultants' Committee, Dr Paul Miller, warned that there was a danger of the Treatment Centres destabilising NHS hospitals.

He said: "The BMA has always welcomed the possibility of treatment centres cutting waiting times and therefore benefiting patients whose quality of life is being seriously impaired while they wait for medical treatment. However, from the start we have raised concerns that treatment centres would destabilise NHS hospitals' economies and this is exactly what is happening.

"We have heard of MRI scanners in NHS hospitals sitting unused while patients are scanned in mobile units in car parks outside. Hospitals will not be able to survive in a system of payment by results if workload is taken away".

Pointing out that NHS service dealt with the more complicated case load, he said that it was "misleading" for Mr Reid to claim that treatment centres provided services eight times faster than NHS hospitals.

The Treatment Centre programme, launched in April 2002, is a key part of the government's drive to cut waiting times and introduce choice for patients.

(SP)

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