WARRINGTON’s two MPs have been accused of “blatantly misleading the public for political gain” following a demonstration outside the town’s hospital at the weekend after reports NHS patients faced charges of £18,000 for hip operations.
Commenting on Labour’s protest outside Warrington Hospital on Saturday, Warrington South Tory Parliamentary Candidate Andy Carter said it demonstrated “an on-going weaponization of our Health Service by Warrington’s Labour MPs who were blatantly misleading the public for political gain.”
He added: “I listened with surprise to the comments made by Faisal Rashid MP and Helen Jones MP in House of Commons on Thursday that ‘Our hospital was demanding £18,000 before they carry out a hip operation, they were simply repeating a story which appeared in a tabloid newspaper earlier in the day. A story which wasn’t true, where the hospital had told the journalists it wasn’t true and where the Labour politicians knew it wasn’t true”.
“The hospital doesn’t make decisions on who receives treatment, deciding who is treated by our NHS is completely separate to the NHS Trust that provide our care. The pricing list they focused on was launched in September 2018, has never been used, and is to give options for those who don’t meet the criteria for treatment under NHS commissioning rules. Our MPs surely know how the NHS works, if they don’t, they need to spend time researching before standing up and making claims.”
“What makes me even more angry is the blatant hypocrisy of Labour politicians, who stand on Lovely Lane claiming to be the party of the NHS. This is the same party who were responsible for the decisions which led to the first hospital being privatised in the UK.
“As far back as 2006, then Health Secretary Alan Johnson announced that poor performing Managers would be replaced with private companies. In March 2010, when Andy Burnham was Health Secretary, the Labour government shortlisted three private companies to take over Hichingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire with the contract later being awarded to a company called Circle. Mr Rashid seems oblivious to the facts that it was the Conservative government who later returned this hospital to NHS Management”.
“Last year the Prime Minister announced a £20.5 billion funding settlement and a ten-year plan for the NHS, more doctors, more nurses and extra funding to ensure that we can deliver world-class health care. I want to see our share of that additional funding for our NHS care services here in Warrington, we need a bigger and better Hospital which is fit for the next 50 years. Rather than spending time repeating false information he should be at the department for Health asking what money can be allocated to our town”.
“Protesting outside a hospital also shows a complete lack of understanding for the people using the hospital, the relatives of the sick and elderly and the staff who work there. Having recently spent time there with a very sick relative, the last thing you want when leaving the building is to be faced with a very noisy group of people waving placards”.
Last week the Trust’s Chief Exceutive Mel Pickup has hit back at reports suggesting NHS patients were 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.
“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.
Prior to the hospital demonstration on Saturday Mr Rashid 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.
Responding to Mr Carter’s criticism he said: “I am disappointed but not surprised to discover that rather than criticising the ongoing privatisation of our NHS, the Conservative Party candidate for Warrington South sees fit to criticise those fighting to prevent it.
“Because make no mistake: these measures are the direct outcome of nearly a decade of crippling NHS underfunding by a Tory-led Government.
“The introduction of a ‘price list’ for treatments that were previously free of charge on our NHS is blatant privatisation. If Conservative politicians cannot see this then I seriously question their suitability for elected office.
“I am glad that the Warrington and Halton Hospital Trust have acknowledged this by halting their proposed ‘My Choice’ programme, which would have charged patients over £18,000 for a hip and knee replacement. This shows what we can achieve when we fight to protect an NHS which is always free at the point of use.
“I am sure it is blatantly obvious to my constituents why I was protesting outside Warrington Hospital: I will not simply stand idly by and see the sick and vulnerable in our community have to worry about self-funding basic treatment and care. To suggest I was protesting out of a lack of respect or understanding for NHS patients is disingenuous in the extreme and frankly insulting.
“The Tories are running our NHS into the ground and I will continue to oppose them at every turn.”
Warrington North MP Helen Jones also raised the issue in parliament and 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 at the time: “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.”