Sunday, November 25, 2007

Further thoughts on CATS

Today's "politics show" on the television was asking whether the dropping, at least from central government's perspective, of a number of proposals to bring in private sector expertise represents a slowdown in the reform process. The CATS proposals for Cumbria and Lancashire is one of the schemes cited.

I stand by the view, also expressed by many doctors and NHS managers, and supported by petitions signed by more than 10,000 people in Copeland, that the CATS proposals in their original form were a mistake and would have been a disaster for West Cumbria. The national CATS model was not right for an outlying area with low population density and communications problems such as Cumbria: the Acute Hospitals Chief Exec, Marie Burnham, reiterated in response to a question from me a few days ago her view that the national CATS contract would have jeopardised West Cumberland Hospital.

The grossly mismanaged PFI scheme for the Cumberland Infirmary at Carlisle has also poisoned the water for private-public partnerships in Cumbria.

However, this does not mean that we should either automatically reject, or indeed automatically support, any local proposals to involve the private sector in public health care which are designed to meet the needs of Cumbria.

If private clinics in Cumbria can provide a service which is not currently available locally and for which patients would otherwise have to travel to, say, Newcastle, and if this can be done at an acceptable cost without jeopardising local hospitals, then the option should be considered. Let's just make sure we are not too quick to support any badly thought through schemes.


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