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The government is starving the NHS of money. But it is also feeding slices of it to private health firms.
A few weeks back readers may recall I wrote about poor performance by private health firm Ramsay Healthcare, whose hospitals are paid to treat NHS patients, thanks to Tory and New Labour privatisation.
Since then Ramsay has issued its latest annual report. The report, released this April, covers its business from 2015-16.
In the pages, it lays out how they are taking bites out of the NHS while the health service itself is starved.
Ramsay’s top director Hiten Mehta tells investors that “growth continues to be driven by NHS volumes which now account for 77.3 per cent of admissions (up from 75.5 per cent last year).
“Volumes for private insured were marginally lower than last year and the market as a whole has continued to see pressures on the number of people with private insurance.”
So Ramsay, one of Britain’s larger private hospital firms, isn’t really private at all. Nearly four out of five patients actually come from the NHS, thanks to privatisation.
Ramsay’s £422 million annual turnover relies on a huge injection of NHS cash — far more than private health insurance.
Its director tells shareholders that, as well as taking money out of the NHS, the firm profits from NHS cuts.
“Self-pay volumes have seen growth through an increase in demand as a result of constraints on certain types of procedures by the NHS.”
Due to severe cuts, the NHS is rationing some operations — and desperate patients are spending their own money to get treatment.
With some NHS authorities restricting vital operations like hip, knee or cataract work, this is a growing market for private hospitals.
So Ramsay can make its £15m-a-year profit and pay its top director £656,000 a year, thanks to the NHS.
The NHS pays for patients to be treated by Ramsay when its own hospitals are struggling.
The NHS also restricts enough operations to force some patients to pay Ramsay direct from their own pockets.
Ramsay faces one big problem: “A key issue faced during the year has been the availability of certain grades of clinical staff. This is an industry-wide issue faced by both the NHS and the independent sector. This shortage has meant that there has been an increased need for agency staff to cover specific gaps and the overall shortages have drive the cost of the supply higher.”
Firms like Ramsay rely very heavily on the NHS to train their doctors and nurses — it is a big hidden subsidy from the NHS to private health firms. Cuts in NHS training of doctors and nurses is now hurting their profits.
Its main solution is to “look to recruit from overseas.” When Ramsay can’t get enough doctors and nurses out of the NHS, it will try to get them out of other nation’s health services.
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