HEALTH chiefs have paid a private company £2 million to treat patients it will never see, The Bolton News can reveal.

Care UK has been paid £4 million over the past two years to treat patients at a mobile clinic to ease pressure on local health services.

But the company dealt with less than half the expected patients in 2009 and 2010 — and NHS Bolton still had to pay for people who were not even seen.

Last night, the situation was described as a “scandalous”

waste of money, prompting calls for an investigation into the contract local health chiefs have Bolton Conservatives’ health spokesman Cllr Andy Morgan, who chaired the local authority’s Health Scrutiny Committee when the contract was agreed, also claimed the committee had been misled about the terms of the contract.

He said: “When these proposals were considered by the committee and after considerable debate over a number of meetings, we were given assurances that this contract would be awarded on a payment-by-episode basis — the contractor would be paid for the services used only.

“It is scandalous that at a time when every penny in the NHS is precious, that this contract was awarded on this basis, regardless of utilisation.

“Bolton’s health economy has lost a huge amount of money that could have been used to invest in our community services and hospital to support vital services.”

He added: “I have no problem with the quality of service being offered, but I feel the committee was misled and that a full review of this contract and how it was tendered needs to be done to ensure that contracts are not awarded on this basis in the future.”

Care UK says it is working to a national contract between it and the Government.

The company says the amount it is being paid— up to £19 million over the seven years of the contract — was based on forecasted activity levels submitted by NHS Bolton and signed by the chief executive, Tim Evans.

It provides the Greater Manchester Clinical Assessment and Treatment Service (CATS), which sees mobile health units travel around the county.

A mobile health clinic visits Bolton several times a month, based at the B&Q car park in Bolton town centre.

NHS Bolton paid Care UK £1.7 million for £700,000 worth of work between February, 2009, and February, 2010, when only 42 per cent of expected patients were seen.

The following 12 months, 49 per cent of the contracted number of people were dealt with, leading to an overspend of more than £1.1 million.

An NHS Bolton spokesman said: “As part of the NHS constitution, when a patient is referred by their GP for treatment, they are offered the choice of where to be treated.

“For some conditions, one of the choices offered to patients is Care UK.

However, the majority of patients are currently choosing to be treated elsewhere.”

Care UK says it is working hard with the PCT to improve the amount of patients using the service.

A spokesman said: “We have undertaken a proactive programme of meetings with GPs and practice staff, to increase their knowledge of the service.

“We are only two years into a seven-year contract and it has taken time for awareness and understanding to build up among both local people and GPs.

“We are confident of continuing to build on the figures over the life of the contract.”

This year, 77 per cent of expected patients have used the service from February to April.