Private sector can’t solve crisis in waits for NHS ops

The (£ paywalled) Times has reported that one of the outcomes of Rishi Sunak’s controversial taskforce on boosting NHS contracts with private hospitals will be a new push to persuade patients to use the NHS app to “book private healthcare.”

Of course the right for elective patients with sufficiently minor conditions to “choose” their elective provider, including private hospitals working on the NHS tariff, is not new. It was established back in the mid 2000s by Tony Blair’s government.

Even then the notion of “choice” was deceptive, since most patients needing healthcare preferred to be able to access prompt, safe treatment in their local NHS hospital, which was not the kind of choice New Labour was promoting. Recent Health Foundation polling confirms that local NHS care is still the preferred option for most people.

New Labour wound up resorting to threats to in their efforts to push patients in to unwanted, newly-established “independent sector treatment centres” which had been established by the Department of Health over the heads of local commissioners, and which many patients preferred not to use.

What is new is today’s heavy focus on using the NHS app which, since Covid, large numbers of patients now have on their phones, as a means to increase use of private hospitals.

Full story in The Lowdown, 26 May 2023

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