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Millions written off by NHS

24th January 2008

An investigation has revealed that NHS trusts are writing off millions of pounds of unpaid debts from private care.

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Research carried out by the Health Services Journal looked into the finances of four trusts and found they were taking the approach over unpaid debts from private and overseas patients.

It focussed on four trusts - North Bristol, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, Moorfields foundation and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital foundation – and found that by the end of the last financial year, they had written off more than £4.8m of private bills.

Private work by NHS trusts is increasing with the aim of re-investing that money back into patient services but the HSJ said its research indicated that private practice may not ultimately be that profitable.

Bristol was owed the most with almost 60% of its £1.8m private income still owed at the end of March 2007. The trust said most of that was from overseas patients it had provided emergency treatment to.

Great Ormond Street Hospital trust wrote off £3m as bad debt by the end of last year.

However, a spokesperson said: “Historically the issue has been slowness in recovering sums due, rather than failure to pay. Most of this income comes from sovereign governments or large insurers who wish to continue to use us.?

Karen Jennings, head of health at Unison, said the bad debts were “another example of the growing instability created in the NHS by forging links with the private sector.? She said the union would raise the matter with ministers.

 

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