NHS data would seem to suggest that profit is being prioritised over services to patients.
Information indicates that there has been a surge in income from private patients over the past five years, and that this has correlated strongly with a general slump in standards.
The aggregate income from private patients jumped by over £100 million in the last five years; a rise of nearly 50% in this decade alone.
This information was acquired from a written parliamentary response by the Health Minister Alistair Burt.
Meanwhile, Freedom of Information requests distributed to specific NHS trusts have revealed that the constituents of Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, are among those leading the charge towards private profit.
And private patient income at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, which serves the Health Minister Jane Ellison’s constituents, rose by 88 per cent, from £8.18m in 2010 to £15.4m in 2015.
A spokesperson for Chelsea and Westminster Hospital defended the policies of the institution, suggesting that they were economically viable.
“In 2014/15, our private patient income was £15.4m, which represents 4.1 per cent of our income that year. Private patient income allows us to provide services which we would be unable to afford with income derived solely from the NHS.”
Royal Surrey County Hospital, which serves Mr Hunt’s constituents, increased its private patient income from £3.16m in 2010 to £4.03m last year.
The issue will be of great concern to those passionate about the NHS as a public service, as in principle the health service should be funded by public money.
And recent legislative changes have arguably led to the existing situation.
A late amendment to the 2012 Health and Social Care Act allowed foundation hospitals to raise 49 per cent of funds from non-NHS work.
Increasingly, the suggestion is made by campaigners that private money is impacting the NHS negatively, and failing to deliver an adequate level of customer care.
A spokesman for the Keep Our NHS Public campaign was predictably scathing about the figures, and suggested that it was a sad indictment of the current culture of the NHS and the government.
“This shows the worst aspects of the ‘marketisation’ of the NHS: focusing on a quick buck while the system around you collapses. The NHS needs to be rid of this vampiric spectre once and for all: healthcare is not about profit, it is not about competition. Public funding and public accountability are what matters.”
Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander indicated her beliefs that this is an absolutely critical issue.
“The public has a right to know what impact private work has on waiting times.”