A Solihull reader draws attention to a major investigation by Pulse, the leading publication for GPs in the UK, which has revealed that private companies are boosting their profits by up to 100% as the health service struggles to cope.
An analysis of company reports and statements from all the major private hospital chains that make their figures available shows all have boosted their revenues this year. They say they are gaining from the plight of the NHS, with patients more likely to pay for their care to avoid lengthening NHS waiting lists, which have led to 3.7 million NHS patients wait for treatment – the most since December 2007.
Commissioners pay millions to private hospitals
The investigation – the most comprehensive since the introduction of the Health and Social Care in 2012 – also shows that local commissioners are paying hundreds of millions to private hospitals and that hospitals have also boosted their income from private work.
GP visit for £120 fee
It comes as Pulse yesterday reported that one private GP firm is expanding its service which promises to deliver a GP to patients’ doorsteps in 90 minutes for £120 – one of a number of companies taking advantage of long waiting times for GP appointments.
General Practitioners Committee (GPC) leaders say the Government is undermining the NHS in favour of the private sector through ‘scandalous’ underfunding, and ‘sleepwalking’ us towards a US-style health insurance system.
The Pulse investigation found that companies are looking to expand services to take advantage of waiting lists. News concerning the following providers may be read here:
- BMI Healthcare
- Nuffield Health
David Hare, chief executive of NHS Partners Network – which represents private health companies – said: ’Independent hospitals play a vital role in keeping NHS waiting times low during a time of huge service pressures. NHS patients are also increasingly choosing to be treated at private hospitals, paid for at NHS prices, to NHS standards and free at the point-of-use.’
But GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul says the rise in private use ‘represents a clear diversion of funds out of the NHS and into the private sector’: “In many cases private providers will cherry-pick low-risk patients, adding further strain onto impoverished NHS hospitals caring for patients with greater morbidity. This is unfairly undermining the NHS in favour of the private sector”.
Pulse, a site for health professionals, has conducted an in-depth survey of 500 GPs with sister title Practical Commissioning.
In an on-site review, it reports that one GP in seven regards a local hospital department as ‘dangerously substandard’ and provides evidence that in a significant minority of hospitals patients are dying because of failings in care.
There were complaints over:
- missed diagnoses,
- dangerously early discharge,
- poor emergency care
- substandard nursing care for elderly patients,
- delays to follow-up appointments
- and patients discharged so prematurely GPs could ‘no longer rely upon in-patient care being complete’.
A third of GPs raised concerns with their local hospital in the last year, in some cases with letters to clinical standards teams, but fewer than half felt confident that concerns would be acted upon.
Some testimonies citing various problems were quoted, ending with one from a GP in Romford, south London, who said his practice now re-referred a quarter of patients due to his local hospital discharging them on ‘target driven, not clinical’ criteria: ‘I have written to the chief executive to say if I had my way I would not refer a single patient to her institution.’
Dr Richard Vautrey, GPC deputy chair, urged GPs to sound the alarm with hospitals or via LMCs: ‘We must not stay silent.‘