Well, no

The number of hospital staff who are receiving private healthcare treatment paid for by the NHS has prompted accusations that the health service is paying for its staff to queue-jump and raised questions about its ability to provide adequate treatment.

Freedom of information requests sent out to all NHS trusts and hospitals in England reveal that over the past three years 3,337 employees were treated, at a cost to the taxpayer of £1,578,607. The figures – obtained by the Liberal Democrats – show the practice is becoming increasingly common.

In 2006-07, 708 staff received private treatment at a cost of £279,335. The following year, 988 staff received private treatment at a cost of £470,859. Last year, the number jumped to 1,641 staff at a cost of £828,413.

\”If the NHS thinks it necessary to pay for private treatment for its staff to jump waiting lists, then it raises serious questions about whether the current system is working as it should,\” said Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman.

Actually, this doesn\’t raise any serious questions at all.

There are 1.4 million people working in the NHS. 1,600 of them being treated privately is a rounding error.

13 comments on “Well, no

  1. Tim, I rarely argue with you. 1600 IS a rounding error, but PAID FOR BY THE NHS is not.

    That is MY tax money, the extraction os which means I cannot afford the same private preatment.

    Alan Douglas

  2. No Alex, if you’re short by £1500 from being able to afford private health cover, then this amounts to under two quid. 1600/1400000 = 1/875. The fact that you are taxed to pay for the NHS might well be the reason why you can’t afford BUPA, but reducing the spend from, say, 14% of the budget to 14% of 874/875 is not suddenly going to make it affordable. Better to scrap the whole system entirely.

  3. As JM says- the fact that the NHS concedes that private medicine is better, in some instances, than what it can provide itself does rather undermine the idea that they are in fact the best themselves- especially when one considers how reluctant they must be not only to make the admission but also to provide evidence. There surely must be many more cases that would have been better treated privately, but were dealt with in house to save face. The cash is not the point.

  4. 1600 is not a “rounding error”, you are comparing NHS staff numbers with NHS staff treated outside the NHS.

    You SHOULD compare NHS staff treated outside the NHS with NHS staff treated inside the NHS.
    This would still be a low figure though.

    Of course for me it is the principle.

  5. I’m much more offended by the way that NHS staff and their families get priority treatment in front of me and mine in the NHS. That’s a disgusting use of privilege, whereas what you’re discussing is a much cleaner use of wealth. Someone else’s wealth, I’ll grant you, but at least it’s transparent. (How do I know that NHS staff still get priority in the NHS? Because a bloody sight more than 1600 would get paid-for private treatment if the privilege had been withdrawn.)

  6. There’s an argument that some people should queue jump due to their importance. Do we want a senior surgeon sat on his arse at home awaiting treatment rather than spending the money to get him treated quicker?

    But one problem with paying for private treatment: it’s hardly going to give those people an incentive to make sure that wards are clean/don’t have mixed-sex wards if they get shuffled off to nice clean private hospitals. If it’s not good enough for you, why is it good enough for your customers?

  7. “There’s an argument that some people should queue jump due to their importance.” Yeah, but that would include me, in my opinion, but not the senior surgeon who can easily afford to pay to go privately.

  8. dearieme,

    Well, that assumes that he wants to spend that money. And if he doesn’t, they’re down a surgeon, which means that you have to wait even longer.

  9. You can apply that argument to tens of thousands of people, Tim. The schoolteacher should get priority, because his pupils need him; the entrepreneur, because we need the jobs his initiative creates; the army officer, because we have wars to win – on and bloody on. They are just looking after number one, however fancifully they want to attempt to justify it.

  10. Tim:

    The “fair point” raised by dearieme is THE point; talk about “damning by faint praise!”

    The practice described is just one of many properly described as “official corruption” but widely countenanced everywhere, in many forms. Not really much different than pilfering pens, pencils, and stationery (except more expensive). I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d find that some get other not-yet-noticed “bennies” to compensate them for not qualifying as sick enough for that one. The muck deserves raking.

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