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NHS spend on private sector rockets

NHS spending on private services reached £8.7bn last year, its highest level yet and a rise of over £3bn since 2006, a study by the Nuffield Trust and the Institute of Fiscal Studies reveals.

The study says the role of non-NHS providers in delivering NHS-funded care in England has increased dramatically from 2006 and means that in certain areas of healthcare the independent sector is now a fixture in the Health Service.

Spending on non-NHS providers varied across regions. In Yorkshire and Humberside nearly 10% of NHS funds were being used to pay private companies, while in the north-east the figure was 4%.

Anita Charlesworth, Nuffield Trust chief economist and an author of the report, said: "Whether spending on private providers will continue to increase as NHS spending is essentially frozen is less clear. There is a need to monitor whether the planned extension of choice into community services leads to anincreased involvement of the voluntary sector or whether in response the private sector providers also expand into this area."