Manipulating waiting lists

Bernie Creaven, executive director of  BMI Meriden Hospital, Coventry  ordered an immediate four-week postponement of operations on NHS patients referred to the hospital, which will be extended to a minimum of eight weeks by September.

In a letter to the hospital’s consultants dated 13 July, seen by The Independent, Ms Creaven said the imposed delays were to discourage patients thinking of going private from opting for treatment on the NHS.

Private hospitals receive taxpayer money for treating NHS cases, but can make larger fees if the patients go directly to them for treatment.

“I believe time to access the system is the most critical factor for private patients converting to NHS patients,” she wrote. She added that “other aspects of differentiation” would be introduced over the next few weeks to make NHS treatment at the hospital relatively less attractive”.

The 52-bed BMI Meriden Hospital in Coventry charges self-pay private patients from £8,500 for a hip replacement. The NHS cost is from £5,485.

In her letter to consultants, Ms Creaven says: “Over the past few months I have had numerous discussions with consultants regarding the lack of differentiation between NHS and private patients and there is significant anecdotal evidence to suggest that the lack of differentiation has had a negative effect on our private patient referrals.

“I now wish to implement with immediate effect a new rule which will mean that operations on NHS Choose and Book patients will not be able to take place until at least four weeks following their outpatient consultation. Also, in each subsequent month, I will extend this by another week until September and the time will be eight weeks from initial consultation. I believe that this time to access the system is probably the most critical factor for some private patients converting to NHS patients.”

A spokesperson for BMI Healthcare said: “We treat both NHS and private patients to the same high standards of clinical quality.”

I suppose this is what they call a free market in healthcare?  The patients are not the consumers.  They are the commodity from which profits are made.