Private firms exploiting over-stretched NHS

Data obtained by the BBC shows that under-pressure NHS services are spending more than £1 billion a year buying external care because they are unable to keep up with demand.

NHS managers have said that money, which is being racked up by hospitals, ambulances and mental health trusts, was being wasted and is to the NHS over-paying due to it often being carried out at the last minute. The most common purchase is reported to be sending patients to private clinics for care, such as hip and knee surgery.

As well as non-emergency operations, the spending, which shows that just over £1 billion has been spent by NHS trusts on buying care from non-NHS bodies in the last two years, is also going on hospitals buying places in care homes to get elderly patients off wards.

Phillippa Hentsch, head of analysis at NHS Providers, said these decisions were often made as a ‘last resort’ where the only alternative would be to cancel.

She said: ”Hospitals have to hand over the patients because they have simply not got the beds, staff or theatres free to see them due to the pressures on the emergency side. The best interests of the patients are what are paramount. But it is valuable income that is lost to those hospitals. It seems such a waste. In some cases hospitals are over-paying for these treatments and tests. It is another sign that things are not working properly."

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