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Private hospitals could ease NHS backlog

Patients will be encouraged to choose private hospitals for NHS care under plans to help clear backlogs of routine operations through outsourcing more treatment.

A task force of private healthcare bosses and NHS chiefs met in Downing Street for the first time yesterday in an effort to find more capacity for hip replacements, cataracts and other routine procedures in the independent sector. NHS bosses are hopeful of meeting a target to eliminate waits of more than 18 months by April, but there is increasing concern in government about whether one-year waits can be eliminated by 2025 as planned.

Private hospitals say they have spare capacity that could help bring down waits but NHS bosses have been sceptical. Patients have long had a legal right to choose where they are treated but ministers are planning a fresh push for GPs to offer them the choice of having NHS treatment in private hospitals, in a revival of a Blair-era scheme.

Steve Barclay, the health secretary, said he wanted to “turbocharge our current plans to bust the backlog and help patients get the treatment they need”.

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Source: The Times, 8 December 2022

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'A&E is absolute chaos - I spent 15 hours on a trolley'

Lying on a trolley in a hospital corridor in pain from a broken hip, Anne Whitfield-Ray could not believe she was in the care of the NHS.

"It was absolute chaos - like something out of a third world country," said the 77-year-old from Worcestershire.

"The staff were rushed off their feet, paint was peeling off the walls and patients were being squeezed in everywhere they could - in makeshift bays, in corridors and side rooms. It was horrific."

Anne spent 15 hours in that position until a bed could be found for her.

Such delays used to be the exception, something that happened on the odd occasion in the depths of winter.

Now they are commonplace. Latest figures show nearly 40% of A&E patients who need admitting face what is called a trolley wait - a delay of four hours or more waiting for a bed to be found.

These are the sickest and frailest patients - the ones who cannot be sent home immediately after treatment. Research has linked delays like this with longer hospital stays and even a higher risk of death.

By the time patients get to this point, they may have already faced hours of waiting in A&E or, increasingly, stuck outside A&E in the back of an ambulance, as was the case for Anne.

She is now back home recovering after surgery, a few days after her fall in October.

She said that despite her experience she cannot fault the staff: "They are doing the best they can. But this is not what should be happening in the NHS".

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Source: BBC News, 8 December 2022

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