The Politics Show North West
Critics fear care levels may be compromised
People in Manchester are given the choice of being patient or paying out.
The Politics Show looks at the first private casualty facility in the North, which is based in Greater Manchester.
It opens in August 2006 at The Alexander Hospital in Cheadle near Stockport.
The unit will not provide full accident and emergency facilities but will provide a minor injuries service. "Walking wounded" make up 80% of all A&E admissions.
The other 20% arrive in ambulances and it is because they take priority and cause delays that the private sector reckons there's a market for a faster pay service.
Eighty thousand patients a year are treated in the A&E of Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, The Alexander's nearest NHS neighbour.
The original London-based Casualty Plus, the company running the private "urgent treatment centre" deals with almost 25,000 patients each year.
In total there are around 1m A&E patients in the North West annually.
Existing NHS Accident and Emergency departments predict it will make little difference to the service they provide and if anything they will benefit from having a few less patients.
Time or money
A Patient's public/private decision may come down to a toss up between time and money.
Casualty Plus Manchester price list is not yet available but in their original London branch it costs:
- £45 for a standard consultation with a doctor
- £29 for the same service if you're a child, an OAP or a student
- £9-£35 for dressings for cuts and grazes
- £39 for crutches
- £9 for a sling
British Airways employee Derrick Tennant is a "Casualty Plus" patient with a sore knee.
"They see you quite quickly whereas with casualty I could be sat there for four or five hours, which I really did not fancy ... hence why I am here today"
Serves the rich?
Is this a service just for those rolling in cash? The Chief Executive of Casualty Plus Syed Jaffery is adamant that his company provides value for money:
"We see a whole cross section of people ... a lot of hourly paid people work out that it is better for them to come here than to spend four to six hours waiting"
Casualty Plus in Brentford now sees around 100 patients a day but Mr Jaffery admits it took time to build up his business.
"We were a new concept when we opened here and people did not understand who we were and what we were doing.
"So it took a little time for us to become established"
On the eve of the opening of the Manchester branch of Casualty Plus everyone seems optimistic. Patients should get more choice, some of the pressure on the NHS should be relieved and the Alexander's "urgent treatment centre" should be a profitable new business for Syed Jaffery.
In theory that should all be true ... but in practice the Health Service has never been that simple.
Also on the Politics Show ... Runaway children
There are only ten beds for the UK's 100,000 runaway children and not one of them is in the North West.
The Politics Show meets a runaway who has been taken on by The Children's Society's Manchester project.
Responsibility for runaway children currently lies entirely with parents - government, police and social services do not have a duty of care.
Helen Southworth's work helped to ensure police have to compile statistics on runaway children.
The Warrington MP has a "ten minute rule" bill in Parliament addressing the need for a joint strategy between police and local government.
She also wants the government to have a duty of care for runaways and she has set up an All Party Parliamentary Group to discuss the issue on 19 July 2006.
According to The Children's Society there are 66,000 first time runaways each year and the majority shun social services - so it is hard to keep a track of them.
The Children's Society has teamed up with Helen Southworth to call for a national network of refuges for children who run away from home.
The organisations "Safe and Sound" initiative investigated the realities of life for runaway children for the first time.
Minister for Europe Geoff Hoon responded positively to Helen Southworth's Common's plea for a debate on support for runaways.
"My Honourable Friend has raised an important subject, and I know that it is one in which she has taken a considerable interest on behalf of her constituents.
"I commend the project and I commend her efforts".
Helen Southworth joins Jim Hancock in the studio this Sunday to discuss rights for runaways.
Jim Hancock presents Politics Show North West with Gill Dummigan
That is The Politics Show in the North West, with Jim Hancock, this Sunday from midday.
The Politics Show
The Politics Show returns on Sunday 17 September 2006 at 12.00pm on BBC One.
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