Official draft guidance has encouraged trusts to grow their ‘private patient opportunities’, despite facing huge backlogs of NHS work.
The NHS England document, leaked to HSJ, includes instructions to local leaders for the new financial year starting in April.
It said: “Trusts should continue to actively explore and develop opportunities to grow their external (non-NHS) income… Private patient services continue to be a significant source of material opportunity in the NHS.”
It adds that NHS England and NHS Improvement will work with trusts to “identify and scale-up NHS export opportunities and support development of private patient opportunities to generate revenue and provide benefits for NHS staff and local patients and services”.
It comes as the NHS faces huge backlogs of elective patients waiting for treatment. NHSE’s own plan to recover from Covid said the waiting list could rise to 14 million, up from the current 6 million.
Sally Gainsbury, senior policy analyst at the Nuffield Trust, said the guidance was “capitalising” on the surge in people paying for private treatment during the pandemic.
Ms Gainsbury said: “It is a concern that with over 6 million patients on the NHS waiting list, NHS England is actively encouraging NHS trusts to expand their private patient activity."
“Scarce NHS capacity should be focused and prioritised on treating NHS patients and bringing these unacceptable waits down, not capitalising on the growth in the private treatment market on the back of this unprecedented backlog of care.”
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Source: HSJ, 29 March 2022