Paying for private consultation has cost Jenny Whitehead her place on the National Health Service (NHS) surgical waiting list. A NHS spokesman said that “Anyone who chooses to pay for a private outpatient consultation cannot receive NHS treatment unless they are then referred on to an NHS pathway by their consultant.”
In 2008, the NHS tried to deny all care to cancer patients who paid for drugs not offered by the health service. The government said that it had ordered the NHS to stop withdrawing care from people who paid privately for unobtainable drugs or treatments.
In March 2009 the NHS released soothing guidelines for the treatment of patients who paid for private hospital treatment. One part of the public explanation promises that “If you’ve had a private consultation for tests and diagnosis, you can still have treatment on the NHS. Your position on the NHS waiting list should be the same as if your original consultation was on the NHS.”
However the guidelines also say that “private hospital treatment must be given separately from…NHS treatment.” Separately means “at different times” and “in different places.”
In practice, this appears to clear the way for the novel use of clinical pathways to justify denying treatment. As Mrs. Whitehead paid privately for a consultation with the surgeon who would be removing the cyst on her spine, she was disqualified from getting treatment under the referral that her general practitioner originated because she had deviated from the government prescribed care pathway. She would have to go back to the start of the “care pathway,” originate a new request for surgery with her general practitioner, and wait another 18 weeks for an appointment with a specialist.
The health bureaucracy in the United States calls “pathways of care” “clinical practice guidelines.” Let’s hope the results are not the same.
Hat tip: Power Line