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Monday, 10 December, 2001, 10:08 GMT
Should private companies run NHS hospitals?
A private hospital is to act exclusively as an "express surgery centre" carrying out routine NHS operations as part of a drive to cut waiting times.
The unnamed Bupa-owned hospital in the south east of England will perform 5,000 routine operations such as hip and knee replacements each year.
Health Secretary Alan Milburn is due to announce the hospital's location today and the scheme could start as early as April 2002.
It will be the first of 20 diagnostic treatment centres promised by 2004 in the government's NHS Plan.
Would you be happy for the private sector to be more closely involved in the running of the NHS if it meant that waiting lists were cut? Or do you feel that it would be totally unacceptable under any circumstances?
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
I have been treated in hospitals in both the US and the UK. There was no comparison in the quality of care, facilities, medical technology, promptness, and follow-up - the US was far superior. However, I had insurance. So from my standpoint, privatisation is useful and beneficial. If I was one of the 40 million other Americans who did not have insurance, then I would definitely think otherwise.
Arri London, EU/US
The reason I pay for private medical healthcare is because when I get ill, I know that I can have almost next day treatment. If, as is proposed, private hospitals are to be used to treat NHS patients, then what happens to the availability of beds, doctors and operation theatres if they are all being used by non-private patients? Will I now have to pay and wait on a waiting list?
I don't think Bupa or any other parasitic private company should be allowed anywhere near the NHS. I also don't think they should be allowed to steal trained NHS staff like they do - remember taxpayers pay for their training so taxpayers should benefit from the treatment not company directors.
Should private companies run our NHS? You mean like private companies running our rail network? Do me a favour!
As a short-to-medium term stop-gap, yes if necessary. As a long-term policy, no.
I do, however, believe, that the public must be informed on the costs of using BUPA services. And commercial sensitivity be damned.
Because we have a right to know whether our Government is delivering value for money to its taxpayers. It's that democracy thing which Tony and George are so keen on defending!
We have already learned a lesson with the railways and it would be unwise to let the NHS go down the same route. I welcome private involvement in hospital infrastructure such as building and other allied services but not medical aspects such as treatment and patient care. I also think allowing accountants to run hospitals as managers is not in the best interest of patients.
There are interminable waits in doctors' offices even though most doctors have an appointment system. It's no joke to wait three hours in your doctor's office, then be sent into another room to wait another hour, and then hear that the doctor has gone for lunch. I have even sat in that second waiting room and listened to the doctor talk about his golf handicap to his nurse for half an hour, in the corridor.
And to add insult to injury they make you pay for this. If you stay in hospital you are charged $500 a night just to stay there, and that's before you pay for any treatment! It's an abysmal "system", and that's where it will go in the end in the UK, so get ready.
Hello! Has everyone forgotten the trains already? Are you insane?
My health insurance rates just went up 45%, my family deductible is $1000.00 per annum and I still have to pay $3000.00 a year out of pocket. Do not let the private sector anywhere near health care. Just look at US costs and mortality and morbidity rates
You have been warned
Why treat medical
care as something
Would you do your
weekly shopping at
store? Can you
imagine what that
would be like? Would
you want to queue
for hours, only to
be told that they
forgot to buy in
bread and baked beans
If people would just
step back and start
thinking of health
care as a service
industry, and not as
a constant struggle
to rescue a little
bit of Old Labour
ideology from the
dustbin of history,
then a lot fewer
people would be
It's crazy that so
many people argue in
favour of a shambolic
when they would never
dream of leaving their
dog or cat to the
mercy of a government
run veterinarian service.
As a patient, I don't care who treats me as long as they are qualified, the treatment is available quickly and freely, and any backup or emergency facilities are there if necessary. For the unions to object on ideological grounds, I think shows a fundamental disrespect for the suffering of the patient. It can only do them harm and lose them support.
Eric Connor, Belgium/UK
Private companies should not run anything. Bring back state control - then the politicians would be accountable for everything that goes wrong in any given institution.
Using private hospitals paid for by the NHS may offer a short term solution and cut down waiting lists as many people hope, but in the long term it will push up the cost of health care for the state and the NHS will end up funding private sector inefficiency. Let us not forget that the reason for the NHS being in a pitiful state is the lack of funding.
The NHS is in crisis. People are dying because they cannot get a date for life saving operations. If I were waiting for a bypass I could care less where my treatment is done as long as it's done in time. Successive governments have treated the NHS as a point-scoring entity and it seems they have forgotten that those that have paid tax all their lives cannot be sure that when they need it, it will be there. It is staffed by some very committed people, they'd have to be to work for the wages they get, and they always seem to be let down by the bean counters and the politicians. Free at the point of use, but who cares where. Let's stop being so precious about the NHS. It's supposed to be a service that delivers health not a holy cow.
This is different from using spare BUPA beds for NHS day cases. For BUPA to run a hospital cheaper than the NHS and still make profit, they must spend less. Since over 85 percent of a hospital's budget is taken up with staffing costs that means they must either pay less or work people harder. Which will they be doing?
Ideally no, but if it's free to the poor and it provides something that the NHS doesn't, ie a health service, I say bring it on.
Routine operations don't always remain routine. A production line operating facility will get through the treatments quickly and efficiently but when things go seriously pear-shaped the resources to deal with a crisis aren't necessarily always at hand.
This is just a scheme to get people used to the idea of the coming privatisation of the health service.
I cannot say what the state of British hospitals is, but I have utilised both government and private healthcare in the US, and I would take the private healthcare provider any day.
When I'm sick, all I care about is how quickly and how well I am treated - who treats me is not important. The dog-eared approach of the public service unions is really disturbing. Perhaps they just don't get how awful things are for NHS patients.
It's worth a try even as an experiment in just a few hospitals initially. It can't be any worse than the current shambles.
The government should decide on the following. Does it want an NHS or does it want people to go private? You can't have it both ways. I would happily pay for private medical treatment when I am able to afford it - but only with a cut in tax and national insurance. I see this as the fairest way. Young people don't necessarily want private health care - they think they will never get ill. Therefore, the government are getting money from a low risk group, and the majority would probably start paying for private care when they start a family. Therefore, I feel there would be less strain on the NHS.
What a fabulous idea. If we have spare resource in private hospitals then let's use it.
It has got to be a better plan than sending our OAPs over to Europe to have their hip replacements.
In my opinion, ANYTHING that cuts waiting times and prevents unnecessary deaths is a great idea.
If a private hospital has spare capacity, why should it not treat NHS patients? It may cost more per operation but the NHS lacks resources. It is better for tax payers to pay more for those operations than not have them done.
Let's take politics out of the equation.
The only answer is a mixture of both public and private resources combining their strengths and expertise together to provide the health system that the people of this country deserve. The health service (along with education and transport) has been wrecked by politicians following political dogma instead of doing what's best.
The unions oppose any attempt at getting the health service to actually treat the sick. For too long the NHS has been a top-heavy red tape factory. If some of the millions wasted on administration costs can be directed to actually getting some operations done then terrific. Colin Mackay is correct - let's get dogmatic ideology out of things like the NHS. Any source of potential progress should be looked at.
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