Expansion of independently run community diagnostic centres is not a substitute for investment in NHS workforce, BMA says

by BMA media office

BMA press release. 

Published: Friday 4 August 2023
Press release icon

Responding to the Government’s announcement1 of further investment into the expansion of community diagnostic centres in the independent sector to tackle NHS waiting lists in England, BMA workforce lead Dr Latifa Patel said:

“It is crucial that more is done to help patients on waiting lists with whatever capacity is available given just how many people are waiting for treatment and procedures. While this additional support should hopefully go some way towards patients having more efficient access to tests, concerns remain over how plans for the expansion of the use of the independent sector to cut diagnostic waiting lists will work.

“We do not have enough staff working in the NHS or the private sector. Doctors working in the private sector are also under pressure, so there is no guarantee that diverting more patients to the independent sector will cut NHS backlogs. Any expansion of community diagnostics centres needs to be carefully implemented to ensure that it does not just shift the problem – resulting in longer waiting times for private patients needing treatment and still not making a significant difference to the NHS backlog.

“This situation is really a result of a failure to adequately resource the NHS and to address the workforce crisis which is fundamental to having the capacity to deal with waiting lists. The Government’s goal should ultimately be long-term investment in the NHS to ensure the best possible value for public money and a sustainable healthcare system that avoids an overreliance on the independent sector.

“We currently have a situation where both consultants and junior doctors are taking industrial action over years of pay erosion. It makes little sense to invest more into the independent sector but ignore the major crisis facing the current NHS workforce who can actually care for these patients and help to cut waiting lists.

“Diagnostics is just one part of the problem, and even with an earlier diagnosis, there is still the issue of how we treat those patients who are referred for treatment. It is also crucial that we see more evidence of how current community diagnostic centres have performed before making plans to maximise their capacity along with details on how plans to increase the use of the independent sector in training junior NHS staff will work.”

Notes to editors

1. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-boosts-use-of-independent-sector-capacity-to-cut-nhs-waits

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

For media enquiries please email [email protected]