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As the privateers renew their push for private clinics and other for-profit schemes in the wake of the Chaoulli ruling, there’s fresh evidence from Britain that privatizing creates problems, rather than solving them.

A senior official with the British Medical Association has told the BMA’s annual consultants’ conference that private clinics, known in Britain as “independent treatment centres” are creating major patient problems and do not deliver value for money.

Paul Miller told the conference that some cataract operations were under investigation for possible mistakes that may have led to patients going blind. He also described a situation where the opening of a private clinic had triggered the closure of a public hospital ward dealing with orthopedics, leaving patients with procedures too complicated for the private clinic “in limbo” and not accounted for on any waiting list.

Miller also said the private clinics are getting an easy ride while charging top dollar. “The new providers will be paid more per case than the National Health System (NHS), while necessarily cherry picking the easiest and cheapest cases. They would have no responsibilities for teaching or research. They would not have the cost of follow-ups or complications. Their out-of-hours emergency coverage is questionable and we [are] less than convinced about the clinical quality of some of the doctors likely to be employed.”

The problems I have been seeing with patient services in treatment centres make me truly believe that the NHS is not only worth protecting and cherishing, it is the most important and valuable piece of social capital in our country,” he added.

Just imagine how much the NHS could have achieved if these enormous amounts of money had been directed at mainstream NHS clinical services.”

Despite this evidence, the British government has just announced plans to more than double the number of operations it contracts out to private clinics, handing the clinics 11 per cent of total surgeries, up from the current 3.9 per cent.