When the Government announces its plans for a major reorganisation of the NHS in the near future they are expected to contain proposals which would threaten the long-term financial viability of the private ambulance market.
According to leaked media reports of the draft plans, the politicians aim to:
- Take more direct control of the NHS
- Cut reliance on outsourcing contracts to private providers
- Go ahead with plans to replace clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) – which “buy” contracts on behalf of patients – with “integrated care systems” that will answer to the secretary of state
The CCG change has been signalled for more than a year after a number of large NEPTS contracts were returned on the grounds they were financially unsustainable. The NHS later launched an investigation into what it described as “financial market failures” .
Ambulance companies are now concerned that with less reliance on private providers, the government will require NHS ambulance trusts to significantly cut their spend with them in order to invest in their own operations.
According to the latest available figures the trusts in England spent more than £92 million pounds on private ambulances and taxis in 2018-19 out of their total budget of around £1.8 billion.
With NEPTS budgets already financially tight, further reductions will inevitably have a major impact on the independent sector, with the possibility of smaller companies not surviving; larger compan
ies could face the prospect of having to bid for long-term fixed price contracts or even withdrawing from the market completely.
In turn, the NHS would be faced with a resourcing problem because it will continue to need private company support to cope with ever-increasing demands on its ambulance service as a result of an ageing population.
David Davis – Editor