Community healthcare could be privatised

ALL community healthcare could be provided by the private sector following a radical new shake up of Suffolk's NHS, it emerged today.

ALL community healthcare could be provided by the private sector following a radical new shake up of Suffolk's NHS, it emerged today.

Services including community hospitals, nursing, school health expertise, healthcare in prisons, and physiotherapy will be put out to tender by NHS Suffolk within the next five years, under the plans.

The drastic move, designed to increase choice and competition in the county's healthcare market, could cause massive upheaval and job insecurity for staff.

At today's board meeting of NHS Suffolk, which buys healthcare in the county, the board was due to be asked to back proposals which would see all services provided by Suffolk Community Healthcare (SCH) bid for competitively.

It follows controversy over the awarding of a sexual health contract to private company Take Care Now last year.

Tracy Dowling, director of strategic commissioning at NHS Suffolk, admitted the move could eventually see SCH not providing any services in Suffolk if it fails to win any contracts.

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She added: “It will progress over the next five years and we will not rush anything.

“We will support SCH to become a stand-alone organisation. As they become independent there will be an opportunity for them to bid for services outside Suffolk, too.

“It is about changing the way services are delivered to make them more accessible than they potentially currently are.”

John Such, chief operating officer of SCH, said: “We recognise this is a large challenge but welcome the opportunity to develop innovative patient-centred health services in Suffolk.

“We will work closely with NHS Suffolk to make this change as smooth as possible for our patients and staff.”

However, Clare Jacobs from the Suffolk branch of the Royal College of Nursing, said the proposals to put all community healthcare services out to tender had already caused anxiety among staff.

She added: “There is a concern about who is the provider of default, when no one else wants to provide a service.

“We know it's not in the independent sector's interest to pick up a service that isn't profitable.

“NHS Suffolk has to demonstrate clearly that at each stage these are the best decisions for the patients and public.”

Are you worried about the changes? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail

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