Medical tourism generates millions for NHS and wider economy, finds study

‘Foreigners abusing system’ claim contradicted by research that also shows more people go overseas for treatment than arrive

Medical tourism is a lucrative source of income for the NHS, according to a major new study that contradicts many of the assumptions behind the government’s announcement that it will clamp down on foreigners abusing the health service.

Eighteen hospitals – those deemed most likely to be making money from overseas patients – earned £42m in 2010, according to researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and York University. Medical tourists spent an estimated £219m on hotels, restaurants, shopping and transport in the UK.

The researchers also found that more people leave the UK seeking medical treatment abroad than arrive in this country for care: about 63,000 people from the country travelled to hospitals and clinics abroad in 2010, while considerably fewer, about 52,000 people, came here.

The research flies in the face of assertions by Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, that the tourists cost the health service money.

He said on Tuesday: “It’s time for action to ensure the NHS is a national health service – not an international one. With the NHS already under pressure from an ageing population, it cannot be right that large amounts of taxpayers’ money is being lost through treating people who should be paying from foreign countries.”

But the lead author of the new study, Johanna Hanefeld, from the faculty of public health and policy at the LSHTM, said the government-commissioned research published on Tuesday was “much more across the government immigration agenda than anything to do with health”.


Continue ReadingMedical tourism generates millions for NHS and wider economy, finds study

Ex-Blair adviser linked to US healthcare giant is new NHS boss

A former adviser to Tony Blair who has spent a decade at the top of an American private healthcare giant has been appointed to run the NHS in England.

Simon Stevens, the architect of Labour’s health reforms who left the UK in 2004 to take up a lucrative post at the American company UnitedHealth, was welcomed by the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, as a “reformer and an innovator”.

But his selection as chief executive of NHS England will raise concerns among critics who claim the NHS is being “softened up for privatisation”.

… one senior doctor told The Independent that the medical profession may view Mr Stevens with suspicion. “Clinicians will remember him as an architect of New Labour’s marketisation of the health service,” he said. “He was very pro the idea of opening up provision to multiple providers. He was keen on having competition as a lever in the NHS… Nicholson was seen as a centralist, very into the state. Stevens will be seen as the opposite. A lot of the profession, especially those committed to traditional NHS values will see this as a very different slant.”

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GPs condemn David Cameron’s open-all-hours surgery plans

Doctors say prime minister’s pledge is unachievable, as analysis shows only 1% of surgeries open all weekend

Image of Dr Clare Gerada
Dr Clare Gerada, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs said: ‘you do not find a solution by beating us around the head constantly, but by supporting and investing in us.’ Photograph: Frank Baron for the Guardian



Senior doctors have condemned the prime minister’s pledge that GP surgeries will open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week as unrealistic and unachievable, as a Guardian analysis of existing opening times showed that just 1% of practices see patients on both weekend days and three-quarters are shut all weekend.

Only 100 (1%) of the 9,871 surgeries in England listed on the NHS Choices website are currently open for part of Saturday and part of Sunday, while overall just one in seven – 1,439 (14.6%) – open at all on a Saturday.

Those that are open offer access to a GP for on average only three hours and 25 minutes, far less than during an 8am to 6.30pm standard weekday. Three out of four (7,561 – 75.6%) surgeries are shut all weekend.

Even at surgeries that do see patients at the weekend, opening hours can be brief. Although four practices in Sheffield, Coventry, Wirral and King’s Lynn open for 14 hours on a Saturday, the Village Hall surgery in Nottingham is open for just 30 minutes that day. More than 30 others open for an hour or less.

The findings underline the scale of the task David Cameron faces in honouring his promise, which earned widespread media coverage when he announced it at the Tory conference. Millions who find it hard to see a GP at a suitable time would benefit from the dramatic extension of opening hours, he pledged: “We want to support GPs to modernise their services so they can see patients from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week.”

But doctors’ leaders claim there are far too few GPs to staff such an expansion of opening times and the NHS is too cash-strapped to afford it. They have also questioned whether enough patients will want to see a GP outside normal weekday surgery hours, especially at weekends, to justify the move.

Family doctors’ organisations warn that a large majority of patients who visit surgeries during usual weekday opening hours could face longer waiting times and not be able to see their regular GP if ministers press ahead with the plan.

Continue ReadingGPs condemn David Cameron’s open-all-hours surgery plans

Number of NHS A&E units failing to meet targets triples in a year

Thirty-nine departments failed to see 95% of patients within four hours in England, up from 14 units for same period in 2012

Accident and emergency
Accident and emergency



The number of A&E units failing to meet the government’s four-hour target has almost trebled in a year.

A total of 39 departments failed to meet the target of seeing 95% of patients within four hours between July and September, according to NHS England data. This compares with 14 units during the same period last year.

The target covers all A&E types, including minor injury units and walk-in centres, and the number discharged, admitted or transferred within four hours of arrival.

The NHS as a whole across England is still hitting the target, with 96% of all patients seen within the time between July and September. But this is only because some units perform way above the target, with some consistently hitting 100%.

In August, David Cameron announced £500m of extra funding over the next two years to support A&E.

The cash is intended to help units through the winter, cutting delays and reducing the number of admissions.

The shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, said: “David Cameron’s ill-judged re-organisation has placed the NHS in the danger zone. The government cannot continue to ignore the warnings. Until ministers face up to the fundamental causes – the collapse of social care and frontline job losses – the NHS will continue to struggle.

“This is further proof you can’t trust David Cameron with the NHS. We can’t have another year in the NHS like the last one – he needs to urgently get a grip.”


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NHS faces unexpected £500m cuts, say hospitals

Hospital trusts say frontline services are threatened by cuts on top of anticipated £1bn fall in funding

NHS sign

The NHS faces unexpected cuts of £500m that threaten frontline services, according to a body that represents hospital trusts.

Despite the government’s pledge to protect frontline services with real-terms increases in funding, Monitor, the NHS watchdog, has proposed that in 2014-15 hospitals should be paid 4% less for operations than they were the previous year.

While hospitals were braced for a cut of about £1bn in funding, the Foundation Trust Network, which represents all 160 hospital trusts in England, calculates that Monitor is now asking for another £500m in savings – roughly £3m from each trust.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of the Foundation Trust Network, said cuts to frontline services would be deeper than expected and questioned whether the NHS could invest in much needed changes to the way hospital services work, recommended by the Francis report into failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust.

He warned that hospitals were facing a “quadruple whammy” of “implementing the Francis report’s recommendations on quality such as improving staff-to-patient ratios, putting seven-day working in place, coping with increasing demand and investing in much needed change”.

“The level of efficiency savings the NHS has delivered over the last three years is unprecedented, but this level of performance cannot be sustained year on year till 2021. We need a reality check here – in the end you get what you pay for, and trusts can’t perform miracles out of thin air.”

Officials at Monitor were unrepentant, saying the forcing of hospitals to charge less for operations would free more money for clinical commissioning groups – clumps of GPs who purchase care on behalf of patients – to spend on the public.

However, Labour said it was another example of how the coalition’s reforms were silently squeezing the NHS.



Continue ReadingNHS faces unexpected £500m cuts, say hospitals