The Department of Health has created the “conditions for a market to grow and thrive”

Did you know that the Commercial Director for the Department of Health is a former senior executive of the US Healthcare business United Health? The report below is from the Financial Times

Patients are urged to embrace choice for better care.

Chan Wheeler the American former senior executive with the US healthcare group United Health, has faced tough questions since taking over as commercial director for the Department of Health. He has been grilled on donations made to the republican party and over millions of dollars worth of backdated share options he received when at UnitedHealth.

He has also inherited stalled plans to buy additional private care for NHS patients and dealt with suggestions that the Prime Minister was hesitating over how vigorously to pursue policies on choice, competition and the private sector to reform the NHS. Although a review of the procurement programme has seen the overall value of the deals shrink from £6bn to £2bn, this has been offset by plans for £1.25bn over five years for new GP surgeries and health centres open to private companies to run. This will be accompanied by full choice between private and public hospitals for routine operations by April.

He says: “What needs to be achieved is conditions where entrepreneurs and investors can look at opportunities in those markets understand how they can . . . pursue them, and get their returns.” And the department has, he insists, “created the conditions for a market to grow and thrive”. As for the backdated share options and the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s investigation into them, he says: “I have never been the subject or target of any investigation.”

In the same issue of the paper we also have the following piece. No “discrimination” will be allowed against those nice private health companies.

Code to promote use of private hospitals.

A new code allowing all hospitals to market themselves to NHS patients, coupled with measures to stop PCTs obfuscating patients rights to use them at the NHS’s expense, has been promised by Chan Wheeler, the health department’s commercial director.

Mr Wheeler also said that the time was right for a “dynamic market” in the private supply of hospital and primary care to the NHS. This is despite the cancellation of much of the second wave of independent sector treatment centres and the slow takeoff in the numbers of patients exercising choice over private hospitals.

From this April, patients will be able to choose from any private hospital that agrees to be paid NHS tariffs. In 2004, health ministers said the numbers talking this route would be up to 15%. However Mr Wheeler said the figure was less than 5%. New competition principles published late last year require PCTs to allow “any willing provider” to treat NHS patients at NHS prices.

“We will push choice in terms of raising awareness” through videos in GPs’ surgeries and libraries, he said. The planned code will allow hospitals to market more freely to NHS patients. I personally expect the independent sector providers in their self-interest to promote the fact that in their local communities they are now available for free choice as of next April,” said Mr Wheeler. Importantly, a change to the software for “choose and book” will list all hospitals in order of distance from the patient. Previously PCTs had been able to choose those that appeared on the first screen, with private hospital groups complaining that most do not put local private hospitals on it. From April, Mr Wheeler said, “that will not be allowed to occur”. There will be “a non-discriminatory view of choice” with patients able to see what is available.

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