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Patients go 'private'

2nd December 2008

Recent statistics have shown "thousands of patients a month" in England are taking advantage of government legislation in order to fund private treatment "paid for by the taxpayer".

Drugs & Money

Reforms introduced in 2006 - aimed at letting patients choose where their non-emergency treatment is carried out - allowed people to choose a health service or private hospital for their treatment if it can be provided at NHS rates.

The government wanted the reforms to stimulate competition between hospitals for patients.

In a one year period the number of patients who chose private treatment has increased ten times to more than 3,500 a month.

In the summer of 2007 around 300 patients per month chose to have health service treatment carried out at a private unit.

By September 2008 this had gone up to 3,634 per month and has cost the health service £7.6 million. However, this still represents "less than 1% of overall non-emergency treatment".

People who choose private care have access to their own rooms, can use no-charge parking facilities and be treated by more staff. Private hospitals also have lower rates of "superbug" infections.

Jacky Davis, co-chair of the NHS Consultants' Association and senior member of the British Medical Association, said: "This is money that is being lost from the NHS."

"That can compromise services and patients should be told that by going private in this way they are potentially putting care they may need in the future under pressure."

 

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