Posted on 20/07/2018 by
Sending patients to private clinics for hip and knee surgery are the most common private treatments bought.
Other costs are racked up by ambulance services having to use private crews to transport less serious patients.
Mental health bosses have paid for beds in private hospitals because they have run out of space and charities are also used to provide support in areas such as cancer and palliative care.
It is valuable income that is lost to those hospitals
The figures, from the health service’s financial regulator NHS Improvement, show that in each of the past two years just over £1billion has been spent by NHS trusts in England on buying health care from non-NHS bodies.
Phillippa Hentsch, of NHS Providers, which represents health trusts, described the spending as a “last resort” where the only alternative would be to cancel treatment.
She said: “It is valuable income that is lost to those hospitals. It seems such a waste. In some cases hospitals are overpaying for these treatments and tests. It is another sign that things are not working properly.
“Hospitals have to hand over the patients because they have simply not got the beds, staff or theatres free to see them due to the pressures on the emergency side.”
The number of patients referred to private hospitals by NHS bosses has reportedly surged by nearly 600 per cent over the last decade. As well as non-emergency operations, hospitals are buying places in care homes to get elderly patients off wards.
Nick Sanderson, of retirement housing specialists Audley Group, said: “Spending at this level as a last resort is not only seeing valuable funds go down the drain, but has a significant impact on patient care both in and out of hospital.
“If part of the bottleneck creating such intense pressure is down to lack of beds, particularly with elderly patients, then buying places in care homes shouldn’t be the only option – not least because 99 per cent of people do not want to be in one.
“There won’t always be more and more money to sink into the NHS.
"If social care and housing were considered in the round, we could actually create holistic solutions for older people and prevent the issues building up.
”However, David Hare, chief executive of the NHS Partners Network, which represents private health care firms, said there were “considerable benefits” to using the private sector.
“At a time of immense pressure it makes no sense to leave available capacity from the private and voluntary sectors on the shelf,” he added.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said the amount spent was still “low” given that the overall budget for NHS trusts exceeds £70billion.