NHS hospitals ‘allow patients to PAY for surgeries privately’

NHS hospitals ‘allow patients to PAY for surgeries privately’ if they’ve been banned or rationed by the health service

  • Patients at some hospitals may be able to pay to have unavailable procedures  
  • Those such as breast reductions may not be offered to NHS patients for free
  • The NHS said hospitals are ‘not expected’ to be offering the private services
  • One critic said operation rationing was only fair if it applied to the rich and poor

NHS hospitals are allowing patients to pay to have operations which have been rationed or banned on the health service.

Hospital trusts which have their own private units on-site say patients can pay to be treated there if they can’t get free treatment, an investigation has found.

Procedures such as breast reduction surgery, tonsil removal or surgery to repair haemorrhoids or varicose veins are all tightly rationed by the NHS.

The procedures are listed under the Evidence-Based Interventions Programme, which outlines the procedures health service hospitals shouldn’t be paying for because they’re either not necessary or effective enough.

NHS England has said it ‘does not expect’ its own hospitals to offer the procedures privately to those who can come up with the cash.

A list of 17 operations has been either rationed or banned by the NHS in a bid to save money because they are unnecessary, but some hospitals offer them privately (stock image)

An investigation by the Health Service Journal named three hospital trusts in London which had done rationed procedures privately.

King’s College, Chelsea and Westminster, and the Royal Surrey trusts were found to have done ‘a few dozen each’ of the operations last year.

Another three – Frimley Health, Imperial College and the Royal Free – were advertising the ops to their private patients.

‘It is critical to avoiding further inequalities in health that clinical commissioning groups and NHS trusts follow NHS England’s policy,’ Professor Dominic Harrison, director of public health in Blackburn with Darwen, told the HSJ.

‘NHS trusts should not be using NHS resources of staff, equipment or buildings to offer private treatment for the rich which have been deemed inefficient, ineffective or of “limited clinical value” for the poor.

‘Rising demand means that the NHS is clearly having to ration its services to focus on those that are most life-saving.

‘If this is fair at all – it is only fair if it applies to us all.’

HOW MUCH DO PRIVATE OPERATIONS COST ON AVERAGE IN THE UK? 

Breast reduction (£5,851) 

Breast enlargement (£4,628)

Breast uplift (£5,200)

Hip replacement (£10,761)

Knee replacement (£11,434)

Knee revision (£18,204)

Circumcision (£2,199)

Cataract surgery (£2,436)

Haemorrhoid removal (£2,829)

Nipple correction (£1,795)

Facet joint injection (£1,990)

Epidural injection (£1,440)

Trigger finger release  (£2,453)

Knee arthroscopy (£3,670)

Hip resurfacing (£12,941)

Hip arthroscopy (£6,733)

Carpal tunnel release (£1,660)

Bunion surgery  (£4,301)

Adenoids removal (£1,290)

Ear pinning (£2,813)

Insertion of grommets (£2,458)

Rhinoplasty (nose job) (£4,173)

Hernia repair  (£2,695)

Dilation & curettage (£1,637)

Eyelid surgery (£2,023)

Private costs taken from national median average from Private Healthcare UK

None of the trusts mentioned above gave comments to the HSJ.

But NHS England yesterday issued a letter to hospital trust directors across the country and said: ‘We do not expect NHS providers to offer these interventions privately.’

It told them to consult with their employees and ‘confirm that your organisation is in full compliance with this guidance’.

Which exact procedures were being carried out by the hospitals wasn’t clear but 17 were listed on a recent document telling trusts which not to use.

Surgical intervention for snoring, dilation and curettage of the uterus, keyhole knee surgery for arthritis and injections for lower back pain should not be used at all.

Meanwhile, grommets, hysterectomy for bleeding, chalazion removal, shoulder decompression, carpal tunnel syndrome release, Dupuytren’s contracture release, ganglion excision and trigger finger release should be tightly rationed.

Privately, these procedures will often cost thousands of pounds.

A typical breast reduction operation costs £5,851 from a private surgeon, while haemorrhoid removal may cost £2,829.

An NHS trust in Cheshire was last month pressured into removing offers of private procedures from its website after people accused it of offering a shopping list.

Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had been accused of ‘disgraceful’ privatisation for trying to charge £18,000 for hip replacements.

The hospital trust itself said its treatments were ‘affordable’ and the ‘majority’ of other NHS hospitals do the same thing.

But people forking out the hefty sums wouldn’t even skip the waiting lists, the trust revealed, and nobody had actually used the paid-for service since it began last year.

On June 20 the trust said it has ‘paused the availability’ of the service, which it would review.

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