A backlash has forced hospital bosses to drop a plan to make patients pay up to £20,000 for health services.
Warrington and Halton Hospitals (WHH) NHS Trust, which covers Merseyside and Cheshire, had launched a “My Choice” price list. The 71 treatments included hip and knee replacement surgeries with price tags of over £18,000.
Bosses launched the “My Choice” programme in 2013 as part of a “rationing” drive within the NHS. They had planned to rapidly expand it, but backed down after it was revealed by the Daily Mirror newspaper.
The price list is a chilling vision of what the Tories and corporations have in store under a privatised health service.
Tony O’Sullivan, Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) campaign group chair, slammed the programme as “simply disgraceful” and “privatisation from within”. He said, “There are many ways the tentacles of private interests envelope our health service.
“But this rationing of access to health care on the NHS is one of the most blatant ploys.”
Rationing restricts patients’ access to some treatment. If patients don’t meet a set of medical criteria—usually how much their condition has deteriorated—they’re told to pay up or wait.
At WHH the procedures on the price list had been reclassified as “Procedures of Low Clinical Priority”.
One patient, Angela from Widnes in Cheshire, fears she will be in agony unless a bunion is removed from her foot. She said, “The surgeon said it’s not bad enough yet, come back when it gets worse.”
Angela already knows what it feels like when doctors operated on her other foot ten years ago. “It became almost impossible to walk,” she explained. “Instead of a straight-forward removal it became a bigger operation.
“I left it so long other toes followed suit and they had to break and reset multiple bones, so this is going to end up being a huge operation as well.
“These are not cosmetic or ‘low priority’ procedures, they have a real impact on people’s lives.”
WHH is the first trust to openly embrace privatisation, but rationing is a much wider problem in the NHS.
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said, “This tells you everything you need to know about the Tory NHS.
“Squeeze funding, impose cutbacks, force greater rationing of treatments, grow waiting lists and then tell patients in agony they can pay if they have deep pockets.”
Labour has promised to renationalise the health service, but its manifesto only said it would make the NHS the “preferred provider” of NHS contracts. All the private companies should be kicked out of the health service, the internal market should be scrapped, and the NHS needs a sharp injection of cash.