An investigation has been launched amid allegations health chiefs have given preferential treatment to a publicly-owned hospital.
Government watchdog Monitor has launched the review after a complaint by private Spire Fylde Coast Hospital (SFCH), on St Walburga’s Road, Blackpool, which alleges both Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Fylde and Wyre CCG have directed patients to NHS-run Blackpool Victoria Hospital for certain services.
Monitor says it will now look into the arrangements made by the two CCGs regarding the choice offered to patients regarding elective care - such as pre-arranged, non-emergency care that includes scheduled operations.
A report released by Monitor states: “The complaint alleges that the two CCGs have sought to direct patients requiring elective care away from Spire Fylde Coast Hospital and towards Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
Monitor will consider whether there has been any breach of the National Health Service (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) (No 2) Regulations 2013, which came into force on April 1 2013.
Liz Cousins, hospital director at SFCH, said: “We have noticed a considerable decrease in the number of NHS patients being referred to our hospital since the new Blackpool and Fylde & Wyre CCGs were formed.
“We believe this is largely due to the CCGs entering into a block contract with Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and failing to promote patient choice.”
Dr Amanda Doyle, chief clinical officer at Blackpool CCG, said: “There is not a shred of evidence to substantiate Spire’s supposition that we have told GPs to direct patients to any particular provider, and I, personally, deeply resent the accusation that either Blackpool CCG or it’s constituent GPs have acted in any way other than in the best interests of our patients.”
Dr Tony Naughton, clinical chief officer of Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We are extremely disappointed that Spire has chosen to refer to Monitor rather than explore and understand any changes in referral patterns with us as commissioners locally.
“We absolutely refute the allegation that either the CCG or local GPs have sought to inappropriately influence where patients may choose to have their treatment.
“We look forward to fully supporting Monitor as they carry out their investigation.”