Hospital wards may go private

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TWO redundant wards in the middle of Milton Keynes Hospital could be transformed into a private clinic to bail out the Trust which is in financial crisis, the Citizen can reveal.

The ‘hospital within a hospital’ would cater for patients with private health insurance or those seeking speedy surgery or a more luxurious stay.

It would occupy wards which were closed earlier this year in a bid to cut costs.

And the new pay-to-be-a-patient facility would use the same NHS consultants, many of whom already work privately in their spare time at the next door BMI Saxon clinic.

“It makes sense that if our consultants are doing this anyway the hospital should get the income rather than another company,” said one insider.

The proposal came from the Trust’s medical director Martin Weatherall at a Health Select Committee meeting on Tuesday night. It met with an angry response from committee chairman Nigel Long, who is a Milton Keynes Labour councillor with responsibility for health and adult social care.

“We all understand the hospital is in a financial crisis but I was appalled at this idea,” he said.

“This is our hospital and it should look after people according to their need of health care, not according to the size of their bank balance.

“I am concerned that less affluent patients will become a lower priority than those with a fat cheque book and this could create a two-tier health system.”

Nigel is already calling for hospital bosses to rule out the proposal and find other ways to generate cash. The Trust has the massive task of saving £28 million over the next two years because of government restrictions.

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though the Trust has vowed to protect quality of service, there are fears it may suffer.

The select committee heard 300 posts would be lost, mainly through natural wastage. There are additional plans to outsource many ‘backroom’ services such as accountancy.

Meanwhile it is awaiting the outcome of the Acute Services Review, which aims to cut costs by centralising and sharing facilities with neighbouring hospitals. Published next month,the review will go to public consultation in Spring 2012.

But Mr Long is calling for the hospital to improve its performance overall rather than make so many cuts. If it climbed into the top 25 per cent of Trusts nationally its funding would increase, he says.

“Improving is the key to minimise the impact of cuts....And if our doctors have time to do private work then they should be focusing on patients with the greatest heath needs?

A hospital spokesman said: “We want to offer a service to all patients in Milton Keynes and this includes patients who choose to pay for their treatment privately. We already provide a private patient service and we are considering expanding this to meet the needs of our local population.

“One of the options we are considering is the creation of a dedicated private patient unit at the hospital. The profits from this unit would be reinvested into NHS care at our hospital. These units are run successfully elsewhere, and can result in improved facilities for all patients.

“No decision has been made about this scheme yet.”