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NHS hospitals ‘profiting from rationing’, claims Labour

Some NHS hospitals are profiting from CCG rationing of common treatments in their areas, the Labour Party has claimed.

An FOI request submitted by Labour’s shadow health team to CCGs and hospital trusts in England has uncovered incidences where local hospital trusts have begun to offer patients to self fund certain treatments after the CCG instated measures for rationing their availability.

As examples, the research pointed at James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Southampton General Hospital which offer self-funding options for opthalmology, while their local commissioning bodies NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG and NHS Southampton CCG have both put in place restrictions for cataract operations.

Other trusts offering patients to pay for services which may be rationed on the NHS included Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which offers to remove varicose veins against payment. Meanwhile, Chelsea and Westminster hospital offers self-funding options on ‘all medical and surgical specialties’, while CCGs in north west London have ‘tightened their criteria on a number of treatments in the last year’, according to the report.

Labour’s research also pointed to a steady rise in the income NHS hospitals generate from private patients. Since 2010, they are allowed to generate up to 49% of their income privately. According to Labour’s shadow health team, hospitals generated £434 million from private patients in 2012/13, an increase of £47 million on 2010/11. Trusts were also projecting for this figure to grow by a further £45 million to £479 million this year.

The party’s report said: ‘This report shows that hospitals are beginning to charge patients for some treatments which were previously free on the NHS and continue to be freely available in other parts of the country.’