NHS could pay for more than 250,000 extra patients per year to be sent to private hospitals





NHS could pay for 250,000 patients waiting too long for surgery to receive treatment at private hospitals under new rules

  • The NHS could start offering to send long-wait patients to private hospitals 
  • More than 250,000 patients waited for more than 26 weeks last year 
  • Proposal comes as the NHS waiting list is the second longest it has ever been  

A quarter of a million more people each year could be sent to private hospitals paid for by the NHS under new plans to cut waiting times.

Health service bosses will trial an option for patients to have private treatment if they have been kept waiting more than six-and-a-half months.

Based on the number of people who waited longer than 26 weeks for non-urgent care last year, this could affect hundreds of thousands of patients.

The move is a bid to cut down the NHS waiting list which, in England, is around the longest it has ever been at more than four million people. 

Hospitals strapped for cash and staff are simply unable to clear the backlog of patients needing hospital care and thousands waiting more than a year to get it.

The NHS waiting list for non-urgent treatment is at its second-longest ever, with 4.16million people waiting, second only to 4.18m in October last year

The NHS waiting list for non-urgent treatment is at its second-longest ever, with 4.16million people waiting, second only to 4.18m in October last year

Under proposed new NHS plans patients left waiting for 26 weeks or more for non- urgent care, such as joint replacement ops, could be offered private treatment. 

Around 10,000 and 25,000 people per month meet these criteria, the Health Service Journal reports.

Although the NHS aims to treat people within 18 weeks (4.5 months), the average wait is just under 23 weeks.

If the policy changes it could be a big financial boost for private health companies.

A hip replacement, for example, costs upwards of £10,000 per patient, according to BMI Healthcare.

The Indpendent Healthcare Providers Network, an organisation which represents private hospitals, confirmed it has enough space to take on NHS patients.

But patients would still be able to continue waiting for the NHS if they’d rather – the new rule would simply be there to make sure they have options.

They could choose to be referred to a different NHS hospital or continue waiting. 

NHS ‘MUST CLEAR BACKLOG’ AS WAITING LIST IS SECOND LONGEST EVER

The Royal College of Surgeons has warned the NHS must clear a backlog of patients waiting for surgery.

Nearly a quarter of a million NHS patients – 227,569 people – have been waiting more than six months for treatment, figures show. 

And there are 4.16million people in England waiting for treatment – a number second only to 4.18m in October last year. 

A total of 36,857 people on the waiting list have been on it for nine months or more, although the number waiting for more than a year is falling over time.

‘The backlog of patients waiting to start treatment continues to grow,’ said Professor Derek Alderson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons.

‘There are now over 100,000 more patients waiting longer than 18 weeks to start treatment when compared with the same time last year.

‘While we support NHS England’s plans to pilot new targets and measurements that could improve care, changing targets will not solve the underlying challenges our health service faces.

‘With the worst of winter now hopefully behind us, there is an urgent need for a plan to deal with the increasing backlog of patients on the planned care waiting list and we will work with NHS England to bring this about.

‘Part of this plan must be a commitment to increase hospital bed capacity.’ 

Its chief executive, David Hare, told the HSJ: ‘The 18-week target should still be the default, however, and it is important to note that a wait of over six months is still far too long for the vast majority of patients.

‘What needs to happen for this new right to be effective is a proper national approach to identifying spare capacity and making patients aware of their options well before they hit 26 weeks.

‘Patients may then choose to remain with their existing hospital, go to another NHS trust, or go to an independent sector provider – this isn’t about simply moving patients into the independent sector.’

The most recent NHS data, for January, showed there were 4.16million people on the NHS waiting list.

This is the second highest number ever, fewer only than 4.18m in October last year.

More than half a million (552,219) of those people had been waiting for more than 18 weeks, and 2,157 had been waiting for more than a year.

The Royal College of Surgeons this month warned hospitals need to take ‘urgent action’ to clear the backlog of patients needing surgery.

The charity said 227,569 people have been waiting more than six months for treatment.

Its president, Professor Derek Alderson said: ‘The backlog of patients waiting to start treatment continues to grow.

‘There are now over 100,000 more patients waiting longer than 18 weeks to start treatment when compared with the same time last year.

‘With the worst of winter now hopefully behind us, there is an urgent need for a plan to deal with the increasing backlog of patients on the planned care waiting list and we will work with NHS England to bring this about.’

NHS UNVEILS PLANS WHICH COULD REPLACE FOUR-HOUR A&E WAIT LIMIT 

NHS England this week began the process of scrapping the four-hour maximum A&E wait target to replace it with new ones. 

In place of its infamous four-hour target, the NHS is now trialling seeing the most seriously ill patients – strokes and heart attacks, for example – within one hour.

Those with less serious conditions, meanwhile, will have to wait longer, and new targets will be drawn up after pilots at around a dozen hospitals later this year. 

Having failed to hit the four-hour benchmark for nearly four years in a row – it was last met in July 2015 – the NHS is now rewriting its own goals.

‘Now is the right time to look again at the old targets,’ the NHS’s medical director said. 

This is despite past warnings from emergency medicine experts that scrapping the target could put patient safety at risk. 

In January, Dr Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) said: ‘Scrapping the four-hour target will have a near-catastrophic impact on patient safety in many emergency departments that are already struggling to deliver safe patient care in a wider system that is failing badly.’

Removing the target could wipe the NHS’s slate clean in one respect, making A&E data for the past 15 years difficult to compare with how hospitals perform in future.

And one branch of the health service, NHS Providers, has already admitted it may look like bosses are ‘moving the goalposts’.



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