NHS doubles pay-bed income: Hospitals treating more private patients to compensate for under-funding

NATIONAL Health Service income from private patients has more than doubled over five years as hospitals look for new ways to raise money.

Earnings last year topped pounds 140m, compared with pounds 67m in 1987, when the market-style reorganisation of the NHS was still on Whitehall drawing boards. The biggest expansion of private treatment by NHS hospitals was seen in London and the South-east, Oxford, East Anglia and Wessex. Only Mersey experienced no increase in private patient income of the 14 English regions. Over the same period, the number of people on NHS waiting lists rose by 18 per cent.

The NHS, now with a 13 per cent stake in the commercial acute health care market, is becoming an increasingly powerful competitor to the private hospital sector.

Most NHS trust hospitals either operate, or are planning to open, private wings or wards to help generate income. Some trusts are seeking to persuade their consultants to treat all their private patients 'in-house' in return for higher salaries.

However, such efforts are being resisted by large numbers of doctors, who fear a gradual erosion of their traditional freedoms under the NHS overhaul. There is no statutory limit on the amount of private work that can be carried out in the NHS.

The latest figures came in replies from Tom Sackville, Under-Secretary of State for Health, to a series of parliamentary questions from Alan Milburn, Labour MP for Darlington.

NHS hospitals trying to clear, or stave off, deficits are turning more to the private patients as sources of income to plug the gap caused by under-funding, Mr Milburn said.

'The Trojan horse of private treatment is threatening to make the NHS a pay-as-you-go service. These figures suggest that patients who are desperate for treatment are having to pay through the nose to avoid lengthening waiting lists.'

The Department of Health collects statistics both on the number of NHS pay-beds and the cash they generate, but not on how they are used. It is therefore virtually impossible to assess whether they represent a cost-effective use of taxpayers' money.

The key Department of Health measure of hospital activity does not distinguish between NHS and private patients. Labour MPs on the health select committee were surprised to learn that figures used to support government claims about the NHS treating ever more patients included both state-funded and privately funded patients.

Under close questioning from Hugh Bayley, Labour MP for York, Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, acknowledged that some of the 407,000 extra patients she claimed last month had been treated by the NHS over the past year could have involved readmissions of the same patients.

Responding to Mr Milburn's claims, Brian Mawhinney, Minister of State for Health, insisted the rising private income to the NHS reflected rising costs. He added: 'It is the time people wait that matters, not the numbers waiting - 75 per cent are treated within three months.'

----------------------------------------------------------------- INCOME FROM PRIVATE PATIENTS - pounds 000 (CASH) ----------------------------------------------------------------- 1987-88 1991-92 Northern 1,504 1,877 Yorkshire 3,425 4,542 Trent 2,385 3,465 East Anglian 3,093 7,319 NW Thames 8,150 13,984 NE Thames 8,791 11,158 SE Thames 6,828 11,692 SW Thames 2,702 3,528 Wessex 1,665 4,383 Oxford 4,849 9,725 South Western 2,627 2,112 W Midlands 3,439 6,327 Mersey 2,055 2,006 North Western 4,094 4,950 *SHAs 11,287 21,513 NHS Trusts - 32,254 TOTAL 66,893 140,834 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Source: Hansard 20 May 1993. *SHAs = Special health authorities for London postgraduate teaching hospitals. -----------------------------------------------------------------

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Company reveals $542m investment in start-up building 'a rocket ship for the mind'

News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
football

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album