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GPs go forth

CCG awards contracts to French hospitals following tendering process

GPs in one area of England will be asking patients whether they would prefer to have surgery in France, it has been revealed.

The situation has arisen after NHS South Kent Coast CCG invited providers to apply to be contracted with the CCG for elective surgery under the Any Qualified Provider (AQP) scheme.

Two hospitals in Calais - Foundation Hospedale and Calais Hospital - have applied to be on the list of approved providers of treatments including general surgery, gynaecology, cataract surgery, pain management and orthopaedics, the CCG said.

Under AQP, GPs have to give patients a choice of providers when referring them for treatments on the NHS, and the chosen provider then gets reimbursed for the cost by CCGs. It was introduced by the Coalition Government in 2012 to stimulate competition between providers and act as a ‘lever’ to improve access and quality.

Patients opting for treatment in France will have to fund their travel themselves, and post-operation follow-ups will be offered either by phone or Skype or a visit back to the hospital.

A CCG spokesperson said plenty of NHS patients are already making ‘similar choices’ as this was ‘no different’ to choosing for example London hospital for treatment, with the ‘cost and distances easily comparable’.

Accountable officer Hazel Carpenter said the CCG is expecting to finalise a contract with the two hospitals by the end of the year, after having visted the hospitals, assessed their services and concluded that they ‘fulfilled our criteria’.

She said: ‘It will then be possible for patients who need this treatment to choose to have it in France if they wish, after discussion with their GPs. The NHS will pay for their medical treatment but patients will pay their own travel and other incidental costs.

‘It is purely a matter of choice and we will be very interested to see how many people take it up and what feedback they give us.’

GPs have been told they ‘need to do more’ to offer patients choice of provider when it comes to outpatient referrals, after a Monitor report last year suggested just over one third are given a choice of hospital.

Readers' comments (6)

  • Wonder how simple things like blood tests, wound reviews and dressings would be managed.

    Actually no need to wonder, I am sure GPs will be best place to do all of that.

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  • This is a solution to long queues. If the NHS is able to come to an understanding and agree with Eastern/ European countries where treatment and procedures are a lot cheaper, then a lot of UK tax-paying patients would happily get the treatment abroad. NHS could save a lot on the difference in pricing.
    Already have patients who go back to get their CT scans and MRIs or endoscopies and ultrasounds done privately as private treatment is a fraction of the price they have to pay here.
    Would happily engage in working on a system to put this in action.

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  • Vinci Ho

    This is BBC Health article

    Kent NHS 'to offer patients surgery in France'
    8 hours ago
    From the section Kent
    Centre Hospitalier de CalaisImage copyrightGoogle
    Image caption
    Centre Hospitalier de Calais hopes to see the first UK patients before Christmas
    NHS patients in Kent could soon be travelling to France for surgery under a new deal being finalised.
    Centre Hospitalier de Calais has bid to provide services to patients in the county, NHS commissioners said.
    South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said the "finer details" were being worked out.
    People who chose to have treatment in France would pay for their own travel and incidental costs. Unison said it was an "admission of failure".
    Hazel Carpenter, chief accountable officer for South Kent CCG, said treatment in France would be an option if a patient wanted it, in discussion with their GP.
    She said commissioners recently invited organisations to provide general surgery, gynaecology, cataract surgery, pain management and orthopaedics to apply for the work, and two French providers applied as well as several English providers.
    "We carried out a careful assessment of the services they offer and are visiting sites," she added.
    "The two French providers, among others, fulfilled our criteria and we expect to finalise a contract with them."
    Map of Kent and Calais
    Analysis: Mark Norman, BBC South East Today Health Correspondent
    The devil is in the detail here. It seems a good idea to use spare capacity in France for NHS patients needing general surgery, but...
    Both the French hospital and the NHS say Calais clinicians will share patient information with NHS GPs but the hospital director in Calais was unsure how that would work in practice
    While the NHS has said post-operative checkups could be done in France or via Skype it remains to be seen if patients will be prepared to travel or use the technology available.
    What happens if something goes wrong? - 24-hour access to the surgical team sounds great but will sick patients have to cross the Channel?
    And it's the NHS who will have to pay for their care after a month.
    Meanwhile, the East Kent Hospitals Trust, already in special measures and struggling financially, could now lose the income from up to 300 patient operations a year.
    The French hospital hopes to see the first UK patients before Christmas and plans to treat between 300 and 400 NHS patients per annum.
    Martin Trelcat, general manager of the Calais hospital, said it had been giving English classes to about 70 nurses and language would not be a barrier.
    Simon Bolton, Unison spokesman, said it was "an admission of failure" by the NHS.
    He said the CCG had failed to make sure the NHS could tackle waiting lists, which he said were lengthening because of government cuts.
    Adding that patients wanted to be treated as quickly and as close to home as possible, he said: "The idea that this is some great consumer choice is frankly crazy."
    Damian Collins, Folkestone and Hythe MP, said it was sensible to use a fantastic hospital that might be less than an hour away from some and more accessible than hospitals in London.
    He said using Calais would help deal with NHS overcrowding and added: "If this deal hadn't been struck, I'm sure we'd have had people coming to us saying there's capacity in the hospital in Calais."
    'Comparable costs'
    A spokeswoman for the NHS South East Commissioning Support Unit said the deal was not a waiting list initiative but rather about following EU competition rules which gave patients more choice.
    She said French providers would operate like other NHS referrals where GPs would share patient information and also receive discharge and care plan details after the treatment.
    French and English providers were bound by the Data Protection Act with regard to patient records, she added.
    Providers would give patients 24-hour access to the surgical team for two weeks after treatment, and would pay for any readmission to hospital within 30 days of discharge.
    And follow-up checks after surgery could be done by phone or Skype or at another visit to the hospital, she said.
    She said the cost and distances of choosing a London or French hospital were easily comparable.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    Er.... how will CQC be able to inspect these hospitals, as they will have no jurisdiction, and our French colleagues will hopefully say, "Qu'est que c'est ce morceau de merde, le CQC.? Je crache la dessus".

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  • Here is the Utopian situation for politicians, getting local GPs to wield the axe over the uinaffordable NHS.

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  • France is consistently rated as having one of the best quality healthcare services in the world.

    Plus the hospital food might be more edible than NHS fare.

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