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Trusts earn millions through private work while some face remedial action

Exclusive NHS trusts saw a 14% increase in income from private patients between 2012/13 to 2015/16, with many making millions more, a Pulse investigation has revealed.

A freedom of information request answered by 54 NHS trusts revealed that some trusts increased their income from private work by a third while being in remedial action over missed waiting time targets.

DH figures showed that trusts earned £558m in 2015/16 – an increase of 14% from 2012/13 figures.

They say they are doing this to raise revenue for NHS activities.

It followed a change in regulations as part of the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, which allowed trusts to take on more private work.

Pulse’s FOI is part of a wider investigation, which has also revealed that private companies are doubling their profits from the crisis with NHS waiting lists, while CCGs are spending millions more on private firms taking on NHS elective work.

This all comes at a time when NHS waiting lists are at their worst since December 2007.

The DH’s figures reveal that NHS trust’s income from private work reached their highest levels in 2015/16:

  • 2012/13: £479m
  • 2013/14: £502m
  • 2014/15: £526m
  • 2015/16: £558m

Pulse’s FOI revealed Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust brought in £39.3m in private income in 2015/16 – a 36% increase on 2012/13 – at a time when it is going through remedial action for missing waiting time targets.

A spokesperson told Pulse: ‘As pressures on NHS funding continue, this revenue stream becomes increasingly important.’

Meanwhile, Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, in Dorset – which is not facing remedial action –  increased its private revenue by 83% between 2012/13 and 2015/16. It is now broadening its private services to include a range of surgical, oncological, diagnostic and outpatient tests.

A statement from the trust says: ‘All the income is reinvested into the hospital to support the care of NHS patients – which is extremely useful in the current financial climate.’

NHS Providers head of analysis Siva Anandaciva said: ‘Levels of private work need to be put in context as private patient income still accounts for a very small portion of overall income for NHS trusts.

‘We also need to remember that trusts have a duty to invest any private income they make back into the organisation. This is to the benefit of NHS patients, often in the shape of new equipment and facilities that the NHS would simply not otherwise be able to afford.’

The article originally said NHS waiting lists were at their worst since December 2017 – this, of course, was meant to say December 2007