The NHS – Rationing And The Two-Tier Health Service
NHS hospitals performing record numbers of private operations in ‘two-tier’ health service. Hard-up hospitals can now earn up to 50% of income from private work. Shock figures show their income from private patients rose 12% last year – with a further 10% rise forecast for the next 12 months. The Tories are creating a two-tier NHS – with those who pay gobbling up scarce resources.
A Freedom of Information request by Labour MP Gareth Thomas revealed English NHS hospitals earned £434million from private patients in 2012/13, up £47million in a year. And hospitals are forecasting they will earn even more this year (2013/14), raking in some £480million from private work.
Ealing Hospital in London, where the A&E department is under threat, increased the amount it got from their private patients by 250% in the last two years; while Great Ormond Street hospital saw a 58% rise, and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust has budgeted for a 30% increase next year.
The MP who unearthed the figures, said: “Our hospitals are seeing a huge rise in the amount of money they receive from private patients. With yet more increases to come this year, it’s clear that under David Cameron a two-tier health service is emerging; pay privately and you’ll be seen quickly – don’t pay privately and join an increasingly long waiting list.”
He said there was growing evidence that patients are being forced to go private because they are being turned away from the NHS or spending so long on waiting lists. “Last year more than 52,000 patients in England were denied routine operations because of the financial pressures on the NHS. This included people waiting for common procedures such as cataract operations and varicose veins treatment”.
Meanwhile, one in five GPs who sits on a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) board has a financial stake in a provider which currently provides services to their own CCG, a Pulse investigation has found, potentially having a conflict of interest because they hold a financial stake in a private healthcare provider.
Figures released by NHS England for July revealed more than half a million patients are on hospital waiting lists in London alone. Dr Clive Peedell, co-leader of the National Health Action Party said: “lifting the cap on private treatments would see a further rise in waiting NHS lists”. “It is a reflection of the huge financial strain on hospitals. The only way to survive and stop from going bankrupt is to increase the number of private patients. We are heading to a two-tier system with consultants having to decide who takes priority: do they see private or NHS patients first”. “The knock on effect will be increased waiting lists as the NHS only has a limited capacity, and if they treat private patients that pushes other patients out of the system. David Cameron is privatising our NHS”.
According to the NHS Support Federation: 70% of GP’s are unable to refer patients to the NHS for treatment at least once a month, while 66% of GP’s reported an increase of patients enquiring about private health care because their treatment was no longer available on the NHS. Meanwhile, increased health care rationing is being felt accross the country. 56% of CCGs have further reduced access to care this year according to the Telegraph.
The NHS Support Federation reports that: 39% of people with diabetes have been left unable to monitor their blood glucose levels because the test strips required are being rationed to save money. Self-monitoring of blood glucose levels is essential for many people with the condition. Failure to do so can lead to serious complications such as hypoglycaemia and ketoacidosis.
The Evening Standard reported last month that the number of operations cancelled at the last minute by London hospitals is at a new high, with more patients having to wait at least four weeks for their rescheduled surgery. Other treatments being increasingly rationed include cataract surgery and hip and knee replacements. GP’s are to be given thresholds to ration 28 common surgical procedures including knee replacements, cataract surgery and bariatric surgery under new guidance currently being developed by the Department of Health.
A recent report from the National Audit Office stated: Hospitals in certain areas have stopped offering elective treatments for smokers or people above a certain level of obesity, while in others cataract patients are being forced to wait until their eyesight deteriorates further before being allowed surgery. Rationing elective operations “essentially defers, rather than avoids, spending,” the report said.
A survey of NHS professionals has found that ‘efficiency savings’ are not working, staff morale is low and services are being cut. Almost half of those surveyed believe patient safety is being affected by the need to save £20 billion by 2015, while nine out of 10 say staff morale is being badly hit.