An A&E doctor fears plans to “privatise” part of York Hospital’s emergency department could cut the quality of care for patients and see NHS staff transferred to private contracts.
But a hospital boss said national guidance says minor injury and minor illness services in A&E should be linked up and that there are no plans for further areas of the emergency department to be handed over to private providers.
Dr Steven Crane, a consultant at York Hospital’s A&E, said plans for private company Vocare to take over more of the department’s services “amounts to privatisation of part of the A&E”.
“There should be no place for private, for profit, organisations like Vocare to make a profit out of the treatment of patients with urgent care needs,” he told a City of York Council meeting.
“We are concerned that, having increased their influence, Vocare will want to extend this further into other areas such as initial assessment of patients attending the A&E department.
“This means that in the future access to the A&E may be controlled by those employed by Vocare, which is a wholly private, for profit organisation.”
The minor illness department in York A&E is already managed by Vocare and the minor injuries service is run by the NHS. Under the plans, the meeting heard, both would be combined under Vocare.
Dr Crane added: “We are concerned that Vocare will seek to reduce costs in areas such as training of staff, the complexity of cases they are prepared to see, and the time allowed for each consultation.
“This will mean that the quality of care provided for patients with urgent care needs and minor injuries going to York Hospital will be diminished.
“We believe the people of York have a great respect for the public institution that is the NHS and for its staff.”
Change ‘still up for debate’
Cllr Denise Craghill said the move looked to be “privatising more of that service” and that the change needs to be explained to the public as they are worried about the plans.
Vocare already provides out of hours GP services in York and has had a contract to provide health services since around 2015, with Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
Simon Morritt, chief executive at York Hospital Trust, said a contract between Vocare and the CCG was extended until March 31 2022 and what happens after that date is “still up for debate”.
He added: “This is where old worlds and new worlds are colliding.
“We, the NHS Trust, have a contract to deliver the minor injuries services and the services at the front door [of A&E], with Vale of York CCG.
“The only thing that’s changed in recent months is the changes to the national specification around urgent treatment centres. That national specification has placed an emphasis on providers of minor injuries and minor illnesses working more closely together and that’s what effectively it means for us.
“We are not, and this is the important thing, we are not proposing that York Hospital Trust in the coming weeks and months will not be the provider of minor injuries service and we will also be providing the screening service at the front door.
“What’s important is that we work together with Vocare so that there is an integrated offer to members of the public.
“One change that will be a positive for the public is that when they phone 111 at the moment they can be booked into minor illness but not minor injuries and that will change, they will be able to book in.”
He said there are no plans to commission further services with the private sector.