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Bureau Recommends: NHS cuts force patients to go private

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Orthopaedics and plastic surgery have been the subject of stringent rationing.

Tighter NHS budgets and increased restrictions on GP referrals are driving some patients to pay for private healthcare, a report by Pulse Magazine revealed today.

Patients needing ‘clinically necessary procedures’, including orthopaedic and cosmetic surgery operations, are increasingly facing barriers to treatment in the NHS, the study found.

Hip replacement procedures can cost up to £14,000 in the private sector, whilst knee replacements can cost up to £13,000.

Pulse spoke with three major private healthcare companies, Spire Healthcare, Nuffield Health, and BMI Healthcare. All three reported a surge in the number of ‘self-pay’ procedures.

Meanwhile, Department of Health figures show GPs referred 120,293 fewer patients for NHS procedures between July and September compared with the same period last year – a 4 per cent drop.

Spire Healthcare, which runs 37 private hospitals across the UK, reported a 10% year-on-year increase in the number of self-pay procedures it carried out in October 2011. It also saw a 33% increase in self-pay inquiries between August and November this year.

And a Spire survey of 1,000 GPs found 32% expected to make more referrals to private hospitals in 2012 than in 2011, with just 5% expecting to make fewer.

Dr Claire Gerada, Chair of the Royal College of General Practice, voiced concerns that the restrictions on referrals could undermine the NHS, creating a perception of ‘sub-optimum’ care:

‘GPs are being restricted in what and who they can refer, you have referral management systems putting barriers between the GP, patient and specialist, a limited budget for commissioning and the squeeze in hospitals. If people want to go privately that’s fine, but I don’t want a health service that is sub-optimum compared with what you can get privately.’

Read the full story here.