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Patients stuck on NHS waiting lists for at least 18 months will be offered Private treatment

Photo: Henry Nicholls/WPA Pool/Getty Images

New reforms outlined by the Secretary of State for Health and Care were set out in a speech at the Royal College of Physicians, London.

Patients on NHS waiting lists for over 18 months will be offered private treatment for free, under plans outlined by Sajid Javid.

The Secretary of State has been keen to hand greater control and choice to patients over their care since the relaxation of pandemic rules. He believes that by expanding the “right to choose” care will be sped up for six million people who languish on waiting lists.

In the speech he said,Taken together, it’s clear we were always going to come to a crossroads: a point where we must choose between endlessly putting in more and more money, or reforming how we do healthcare,’ he will say in his address at the Royal College of Physicians. 

“There were major challenges before the pandemic. Pressures in social care were rising substantially too.

“But without the pandemic, the Covid backlogs, an even more stretched workforce and other new pressures, that choice might have been many years down the line.

“The shock of Covid and the urgent need for recovery has brought us to this crossroads right now. I choose reform.”

Waiting lists at an all-time high:

The number of people waiting for an operation in the NHS has hit an all-time high as 6 million people waited for treatment in October, up from 5.8 million the previous month while the number of patients waiting more than a year rose from 300,566 in September to 312,665 in October.

The number of patients waiting more than two years for an operation rose substantially from 12,491 in September to more than 16,225 in October.

The NHS has also recorded the highest number of people waiting more than 12 hours in A&E since data collections began, with 10,646 people delayed in November this year, up from 2,148 in November 2020.

Final Thought:

Viewpoints on private healthcare in the UK tend to be deeply tainted by politics. Thatcherites look to a functioning private healthcare system as a source of market led innovation and alternative management structures that seem simple when faced with the complex giant that is the NHS.

The left sees in private healthcare a system funded by the queue-jumping rich who refuse or vote against paying enough tax to provide the healthcare services they demand to everyone.

It is true that the NHS is in dire straights and waiting list are at record levels. With an ageing population and the pandemic recovery this is to be expected. The question is what the true price of purchasing private healthcare capacity will be?

Is the procurement of private healthcare a pragmatic stopgap to clear a temporary crisis, or should these funds be used to build capacity within the NHS? Any investment in private capacity will serve the wealthy users of private health services for years to come, but is that a price worth paying to help people on waiting lists now?

For the Conservative Party, the conundrum is should they further diminish state capacity as they lean on market solutions? For the Labour Party the question is whether they are willing to bend their principles to find answers in a crisis.

The relationship between the Conservative Party and private healthcare has been a challenging one electorally for many years. There are those on the left that will criticise any announcement of more private sector involvement in the delivery of health and care.

However, as it stands there has been very little criticism from a Labour leadership that has shifted its support towards a mixed-economy approach towards the delivery of public services.

Choice is something the Conservative Party has jostled with for many years, however the challenge with this doctrine has always been that the system is in charge. Choice, as defined by the Secretary of State, is a misnomer – the patient will be able to choose whether they get their service after 18 months of waiting and it does not seem that they will be able to decide which provider they get.

Guess who will get to decide the independent provider of choice – the NHS.

The full speech can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/health-and-social-care-secretary-speech-on-health-reform

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