HEALTH chiefs have launched a recommissioning process for key services, prompting fears they could soon be run by private companies.

East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) wants more patients with minor or long-term skin, eye and muscle problems to be seen by GPs and community nurses, rather than specialist staff in acute hospitals, as this will save money and ‘reflect people’s changing needs’.

The community-based opthalmology, dermatology and musculoskeletal services are largely delivered by East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust and other NHS providers, but the CCG is now ‘looking at options’ which could include tendering.

It comes after warnings were published in the Lancashire Telegraph last year, that the government’sl health reforms would mean that £53 million worth of NHS contracts could be snapped up in a potential ‘bonanza’ for private firms.

The recommissioning process will not affect patients needing emergency or specialist care.

The data obtained from East Lancashire CCG at the time included an opthalmology contract worth £6.8 million, a dermatology contract of £3.4 million, plus musculoskeletal and pain service contracts worth £4.2 million.

It is not clear whether the contracts being redesigned will equate to similar amounts as the CCG would not clarify this.

Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said: “If they are suggesting for one minute that a private company could come in and run these services then I’m very worried about it.”

The CCG said in a statement: “There are a number of options for this, which could include tendering, although there is currently no formal tendering process in place.”

In April, the Lancashire Telegraph revealed how new independent providers have been chosen for a physiotherapy contract in Chorley, South Ribble and Greater Preston, which was previously held by Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust.