Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence



Memorandum by The Royal College of Physicians (PSR 3)

  The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh is pleased to respond to the Public Administration Select Committee of the Westminster Government which seeks views on the influence of private sector involvement in the public sector. The College promotes the highest standards of practice in internal medicine and related specialties wherever its Fellows, Collegiate Members and Members practise.

  This College offers the following comments in relation to the NHS in the United Kingdom:

  1.  The College has a particular interest in professional standards irrespective of the employer, and supports Fellows and Collegiate Members to achieve the highest possible professional standards whether they work in the public or private sector.

  2.  Quality of care is paramount and should take precedence over ideology. Outcomes are important and the process of care should reflect a patient focus whichever sector is responsible for delivery.

  3.  The private sector has the luxury of being able to take a selective view of a market. This luxury is not available to the NHS where patients cannot be refused care and treatment may continue for many years. Private sector input into the NHS would need to accept this difference.

  4.  It is important that the financial considerations of the private sector do not affect prices such that NHS costs increase with consequent damage to patient care within the public sector.

  5.  Private sector managers may be trained in and have experience of a different culture, with different underlying philosophies and motivators. These may bring particular strengths, but it is also important to recognise these differences and be alert to any negative impact on quality of care within the NHS.

  In summary the College believes high quality care can be provided in public and private sector systems as demonstrated by our Fellows and Collegiate Members across the world. A "mixed economy" may bring its tensions but there can be no objection to private sector influence on the NHS if clinical standards are protected and patients and staff treated fairly.

October 2001

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