BUPA have come under fire this week for ‘bribing’ their customers to use the NHS for complex operations. An anonymous cardiac patient showed a national newspaper a letter he received from the private health care giant offering him a ‘fixed sum amount’ if he decided to use the NHS. The letter explains that the pay-out would ‘take the place of private treatment funding’. The payments being offered by BUPA range from £500 to £2000 depending on the nature of the operation required. Some of these operations can cost up to five times the amount that BUPA is paying out to customers. This means a hefty bill for the NHS whilst BUPA saves the difference between the pay-out and the operation cost.
Patients and doctors alike are outraged at this money saving scheme which is ultimately adding to the burden of an already over stretched NHS. Aside from the monetary aspects, the other issue is that the operations for which BUPA are offering these cash incentives, such as the fitting of a pacemaker, are those which the NHS are not as well equipped to cope with. The shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne described private health companies as ‘cherry picking’ patients and procedures that were most profitable. Labour has called for an investigation into the scale and impact of the scheme. BUPA say that they are not bribing patients but simply ‘offering them a choice’ when it comes to treatment.
Funding Cuts at Welsh Hospitals Blamed for Longer Waiting Times
A report in which the health services in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are compared has suggested that Government funding cuts have caused longer waiting times for Welsh patients. Since 2009 waiting times in Wales have significantly deteriorated with some patients waiting for an average of 170 days for certain operations which are being carried out within an average of 77 days in England. The report has placed these figures alongside national health budgets which saw rise of 1% in England and 2% in Scotland whilst Wales saw a 1% reduction in spending.
The report also found that Wales had the worse response times for emergency ambulance services and the fewest number of full time GP’s per head of population. Critics are blaming these issues on the fact that the Welsh Labour Government did not protect their health budgets back in 2011. On Wednesday the PM commented that Labour had a ‘truly dreadful’ record when it came to public health, even describing the service in Wales as a ‘shambles’.