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Hospital suspends controversial charging service

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WARRINGTON & Halton Hospitals NHS Trust is suspending its controversial My Choice© charging service for patients to ensure it wont disadvantage NHS patients following reports hip operations could cost up to £18,000.

The Trust has announced it is pausing the availability of this service and reviewing it to ensure it can in no way disadvantage NHS patients. To date, no NHS patients have been impacted as no one has been treated as part of the My Choice service which was introduced last September.

The Trust says it continues to meet all of its diagnostic, cancer and referral to treatment standards.

Meanwhile the Trust’s Chief Exceutive Mel Pickup has hit back at reports suggesting NHS patients are facing charges of up to £18,000 for hip operations and other procedures, saying “NHS patients do not pay for NHS treatments.”

In a memo to staff and published on the hospital website she said: “You may be aware of the current media coverage regarding the above scheme. I would like to reassure you about this.

Mel Pickup

“For the avoidance of doubt, I would wish to be very clear that Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust does not charge NHS patients for NHS treatments and we have no intention of doing otherwise.

“It is not the role of hospitals to determine which treatments are funded by the NHS and which are not; this is the role of NHS commissioners.

“Present for many years, there is a growing list of procedures that our commissioners will no longer pay for if criteria are not met. The Trust does not make decisions with regards to eligibility for such procedures.

“There is a national list, locally implemented by commissioners. Initially this list was referred to as Procedures of Limited Clinical Value (PLCV); this then became Procedures of Lower Clinical Priority (PLCP) and these are now referred to as Criteria Based Clinical Treatments (CBCT). They emerge from evidence-based guidelines, reflecting the changing nature of clinical practice over the years and the focus on evidence-based medicine and clinical effectiveness. The list of procedures, set by commissioners, includes commonly undertaken operations such as hip and knee replacements and cataract removal.

“These remain available on the NHS in the usual way if the criteria are met, as is usually the case. We are now also able to offer these procedures via our My Choice service to make them more accessible for patients who otherwise would not qualify for them under commissioner guidelines. If a patient does not meet the criteria laid out by commissioners, patients have two choices: they can either seek the procedure through the private sector or not have the procedure  at all. What we are trying to do, like many others, is to improve the offer for patients with a third choice if they do not meet the criteria required by commissioners; that is to self-fund their procedure within their local NHS  hospital at a cost that is potentially more affordable than the private sector, at a price based on the NHS national tariff.

“Each case is of course an individual clinical consideration on its own merits with conversations about the risks and benefits of procedures occurring between patients and clinicians as is standard practice.

The Trust relaunched the My Choice service in September 2018. To date no patients have been treated under this scheme. Once again, our Trust does not charge NHS patients for NHS treatments; it is the role of the commissioners to determine which patients are eligible (and funded) for which treatment and which are not. Our role, as ever, is to provide safe, high quality healthcare in a way that is sustainable for the future of our local population.

Meanwhile the town’s two MPs have called for an urgent debate in the house on the issue.

MP Faisal Rashid

Warrington South MP Faisal Rashid has called on the government to issue an urgent statement and allow MPs to debate the introduction of pricing lists by Warrington and Halton Hospitals Trust (WHH), following reports that the Trust had started to advertise operations that had previously been performed for free on the NHS.

The Trust ‘price list’ offered 71 costly private operations, including vital procedures such as hip and knee replacements at £18,143, cataracts at £2,368 and hernias at £7,719.

He says the introduction of these fees are a result of Tory cuts forcing the NHS to ration services that were once free at the point of use. Campaigners and Labour MPs have consistently warned that these measures are leading to the gradual privatisation of NHS services, with vulnerable patients potentially being forced to pay extortionate fees to cover medical costs. WHH are understood to be the first NHS Trust to openly advertise private medical services in this way.

Faisal said: “I am appalled by the news that Warrington and Halton Hospitals Trust have been advertising a price list for operations that were once free on the NHS. This morning I asked the Leader of the House if the Government will make an urgent statement and allow MPs to debate this scandalous privatisation of NHS services.

“Desperate patients are being left in agony because they cannot afford the private operations on offer at an NHS trust that were once free.

“Vital procedures such as hip and knee replacements cost up to £18,143, cataracts £2,368 and hernias £7,719, way outside most ordinary people’s budgets.

“We are seeing the privatisation of our NHS advertised brazenly to my constituents, with the sick and vulnerable being exploited for profit.

Helen Jones

“This cannot go on – I will fight tooth and nail to protect our NHS.”

Warrington North MP Helen Jones has also raised the issue in parliament following reports that Warrington Hospital have become the first NHS Trust to issue a ‘price list’ for a number of treatments and procedures.

She also called for a debate to held to discuss the ‘creeping privatisation’ of the National Health Service and the ‘denial of essential treatments to people that cannot afford to pay for them.’

Ms Jones has also tabled a number of Questions to the Secretary of State for Health in relation to this matter.

She said: “It is outrageous for our local NHS Trust to restrict access to essential operations and then seek to charge amounts that no one on a normal wage can pay.”

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Experienced journalist for more than 35 years. Managing Director of magazine publishing group with six in-house titles and on-line daily newspaper for Warrington. Experienced writer, photographer, PR consultant and media expert having written for local, regional and national newspapers. Specialties: PR, media, social networking, photographer, networking, advertising, sales, media crisis management. Patron Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace. Trustee Warrington Disability Partnership. Former Chairman of Warrington Town FC.

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