The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ms Gisela Staurt):
We have considered at length the role that independent hospitals can play in easing demands on NHS hospitals. Our existing policy on commissioning health care services from the private sector allows the NHS to negotiate with the private sector where no local NHS beds are available, and where it is cost-effective. It has also been a long-standing practice in the NHS to use the independents sector where historically there has been little or no provision in the NHS—for example, for mental health secure units and termination of pregnancy.
We do not believe that we need to change our existing policy. Health authorities and NHS trusts are already aware of their powers and of the availability of private provision in their areas. We believe that commissioning from the private sector must be decided at local level, by those who are most familiar with their local circumstances.