Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Capping earnings from private patients in NHS foundation trusts

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 11 November 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4698

Rapid Response:

Profit not Income

The debate about private patient income in the NHS is almost always
conducted around the wrong figures - it is the profit to the NHS that
matters, not the total income, because, of course, services for the
private patient have a cost and are not "free", unless the NHS is seen as
offering a 100 per cent subsidy. I have never found an NHS trust which
has a good handle on the costs of services to private patients though
developments in service line costing may change this. If, as seems
likely, private patients tie up capacity in the NHS without making much of
a profit, there may not be much to gain from having a bit more or less
private activity. One key development that should come out of the current
debate about the cap on private patient income is a reliable estimate of
profit and not just income.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

23 November 2009
Peter A West
Senior Research Associate
York Health Economics Consortium