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Hospitals offering private services to ‘boost income’

Hospitals offering private services to ‘boost income’

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One in six hospitals in England have introduced new private treatment options, as cost pressures tighten restrictions on some NHS services. 

A BMJ investigation has revealed a growing number of hospitals offer patients the choice of ‘self-funding’ for treatments and services that are subject to restrictions or to long waiting times on the NHS, such as IVF, cataract surgery and hernia repair. 

Often the treatments are offered at cheaper rates than in the private sector. 

The BMJ obtained data from 134 acute hospital trusts in England through freedom of information requests and found that 119 trusts (89%) now offer traditional private care or “self funded” services. 

More than 20 hospital trusts (16%) added new self funding or private treatment options for 2013-14, and
17 (13%) now allow patients to pay for one or more services at notional NHS rates, under the self funding scheme.

Earlier this week the BMJ revealed that many CCGs have introduced new systems to restrict the flow of patients sent to hospital for “low priority” surgery. 

David Hunter, professor of health policy and management at Durham University, warned that self funding schemes could pave the way for “a two-tier or multi-tier system which is both complicated and inequitable”. 

According to Hunter, the schemes could also lead to commissioners and providers focusing their energies on more lucrative procedures to raise additional funds.

The Foundation Trust Network, which represents NHS foundation hospital trusts in England, said that most trusts had systems in place to stop paying patients “queue jumping” ahead of NHS patients when being treated in the same facility, and that it expected more treatments to be available to self funding in the future.

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