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Government boosts use of independent sector capacity to cut NHS waits

Thirteen new community diagnostic centres – including eight independently-run CDCs – are opening across the country to deliver more than 742,000 additional scans, tests, and checks, a year, the Department of Health & Social Care has announced.

They are being launched as part of Government plans to use the independent sector to cut NHS waiting lists, Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay, explains. Five will operate in the South West of England, with permanent sites fully opening in 2024 in Redruth, Bristol, Torbay, Yeovil, and Weston Super Mare. Additional diagnostic testing capacity is already being rolled out in the region via mobile diagnostic facilities, to provide additional diagnostic services while these sites are constructed.

Three others will open in Southend, Northampton, and South Birmingham – with the former commencing activity from November and the latter two from December. The DHSC says these independently run CDCs make it easier for patients to receive checks closer to home, and will remain free at the point of use for patients. This adds to the four independent sector-run CDCs run by the independent sector already operational in Brighton, North Solihull, Oxford, and Salford.

The Department said: “Five more NHS-run centres will also open across England, delivering on our ambition to open up to 160 across the country by 2025, backed by £2.3 billion. These will be in Hornchurch, Skegness, Lincoln, Nottingham, and Stoke-on-Trent.”

Steve Barclay said: “We must use every available resource to deliver life-saving checks to ease pressure on the NHS. By making use of the available capacity in the independent sector, and enabling patients to access this diagnostic capacity free, we can offer patients a wider choice of venues to receive treatment, and in doing so diagnose major illnesses quicker and start treatments sooner. The Elective Recovery Taskforce has identified additional diagnostic capacity that is available in the independent sector, which we will now use more widely to enable patients to access the care they need quicker.”

The Government has also set out a range of new measures to unlock spare capacity within the independent healthcare sector, following actions from the Elective Recovery Taskforce established last December. Chaired by Health Minister, Will Quince, and made up of academics and experts from the NHS and independent sector, the taskforce looked for ways to go further ‘to bust the COVID backlogs and reduce waiting times for patients’.

The measures include a commitment to using data on independent sector providers to identify where they have capacity to take on more NHS patients to help clear the backlog, and increasing the use of the independent sector in training junior NHS staff.

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