NHS hospitals told to send patients to private sector to ease potential winter crisis

Leaked memos show health officials have been ordered to discharge thousands of patients

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The Independent Online

NHS hospitals have been told to pass on some scheduled surgery to the private sector to ease a potential winter crisis.

Leaked memos show health officials have been ordered to discharge thousands of patients and have been banned from declaring “black alerts”, which are used when hospitals are unable to cope with demand.

The instructions have apparently come from NHS England and the regulator NHS Improvement and looks to bring occupancy down to 85 per cent, the Telegraph reported.

In the run up to Christmas, NHS trusts have been encouraged to cut the number of operations they perform to vacate beds without lengthening waiting times but passing them on to the private sector is likely to add huge financial pressure on the NHS.

The organisation recorded the highest deficit in its history last year and schemes in the independent sector can pay consultants rates of up to £1,000.

Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: “This is evidence of an over-stretched healthcare system that the government has failed to properly fund, which must outsource patient care to private providers to cope with predictable patient demand. 

“Unmanageable pressures are now facing the NHS all year round, winter or not, and this has been made worse by cuts to social care provision.

“It is time for the government to take the blinkers off and provide sustainable funding and increased staffing to ensure the long-term future of the NHS.”

Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the NHS needs more government funding.

“Using the private sector like this, on this scale, only runs down the NHS and will cost the taxpayer more in the long run,” Mr Farron told the Telegraph.

“The NHS needs more cash and this government is trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes by pretending otherwise."