Bob Ricketts

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Bob Ricketts is Head of Access, Policy Development and Capacity Planning at the British Department of Health [1].

In a spring 2004 article for the Public Service Review, Ricketts lauded the government's introduction of diagnostic and treatment centres (DTCs), a key component of Labour's plans to 'modernise' the NHS. According to Ricketts:

"...if we are to deliver real patient choice in 2005, we still need extra capacity, which needs to come from outside the existing NHS resources, so we are procuring 38 (36 fixed site and two mobile) Treatment Centres from the independent sector (IS-TCs). These new facilities will ensure that we support existing NHS resources and also help to relieve pressure on hospitals that are already working at or near full capacity. The IS-TC concept was developed a few years ago with the opening of the BUPA Redwood Treatment Centre, which is a partnership project between the NHS and private sector provider, BUPA. The other IS-TCs are being set up by some of the world’s leading independent healthcare companies, who can deliver high quality treatment in a streamlined way, and at prices that represent good value for money for the NHS and the taxpayer." [2]

DTCs have been superficially successful in reducing waiting lists for some routine operations. However, by January 2005, people actually working within the NHS were painting a less rosy picture of their impact. According to The Guardian, a survey of NHS hospital trusts found that "73% of them believed that the money spent on the private centres was poor value for money and 80% of acute trusts said the initiative was diverting money from their other hospital services." [3]

And doctors were equally worried: "The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, has warned that privately-run and NHS treatment centres are destabilising the NHS by stealing work from established hospital surgical teams. It argued that treatment centres were only cost-effective because they could cherry-pick those procedures and operations which are more profitable and easy to perform." [4]

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