18. July 2012 11:42
All Foundation Trusts will be able to increase the private healthcare proportion of their income to 49% from 1 October, the DH has confirmed.
The rule – included in the Health and Social Care Act but still controversial – may help NHS trusts that are currently struggling to achieve FT status.
However, it has been criticised as likely to increase rationing of NHS services.
Since their creation in 2002, FTs have not been allowed to increase the proportion of income they earn from private patients.
The Health and Social Care Bill originally removed all caps on private earnings for FTs. The current rule was a key House of Lords amendment.
A DH spokeswoman said that being allowed to receive almost half of their income from private patients will enable FTs to expand their NHS services. “Services for NHS patients will be safeguarded, because foundation hospitals will still have as their core legal purpose a duty to provide services to them,” she added.
However, Ron Singer, President of the Medical Practitioners’ Union, commented: “It is inevitable that when an NHS hospital gets into financial trouble it will try to increase its income from private patients, putting NHS patients at the back of the queue.”
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham predicted “an explosion of private work in the NHS” arising from the new rule.