Patients take £7.6m a month out of NHS as they choose and book private sector treatment

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 05 December 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2911
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. 1London

    Thousands of patients are choosing to be treated in private rather than NHS facilities every month, moving millions of pounds away from NHS hospitals, show figures from the Department of Health.

    Since January 2006 all patients referred by their GP for elective care should have been offered a choice of four or more hospitals commissioned by their primary care trust. This was expanded in April 2008 to allow patients to choose any hospital provider that meets NHS standards and costs in England. The number of private hospitals listed on the extended choice network, which are approved by the NHS and offer their services at NHS prices, has expanded from just one facility in January 2007 to 147 in September 2008.

    In August 2007 just over 300 patients a month were choosing to be treated in private hospitals. But by September 2008 this number had risen to 3634, representing less than 1% of the elective caseload in England and costing £7.6m (€8.8m; $11m). In August 2007 less than £620 000 went to private companies for performing NHS procedures.

    A survey by the department of more than 93 000 patients who had elective care in July shows that 46% of them recalled being offered a choice of where to have their first outpatient appointment, and 88% of patients offered a choice got the hospital they wanted. The factors that most influenced people’s choice of hospital were cleanliness and infections rates.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2911

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