The British Medical Association (BMA) yesterday expressed concern over the threat of closure hanging over a number of NHS hospitals.
This followed data published yesterday by Dr Foster, a private health care information company, which showed that more than a third of NHS hospital trusts in England suffered a fall in the number of routine operations they performed in 2007. As far as Dr Foster is concerned, these are all candidates for closure.
NHS hospitals no longer receive a guaranteed block grant and are paid according to the number of patients they treat under the new Payment by Results funding system.
This has seen many hospitals suffering a sharp fall in income.
Also, under ‘patient choice’ GPs are being directed to refer patients to private treatment centres, and some are being given incentives not to refer patients to NHS hospitals.
A spokesman for the BMA told News Line: ‘The BMA has long had concerns that the NHS is losing money to private firms as a consequence of the internal market on health put in place by the government.
‘There is rarely a level playing field when competing for work and private firms are often given preferential contracts for NHS activity.’
The Dr Foster Hospital Guide report found that 40 per cent of the 170 acute and specialist NHS trusts in England experienced a fluctuation of more than 17 per cent in their rates of elective surgery between 2005 and 2007.
The Hospital Guide also stated that Barnet & Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust had had a ten per cent fall in the number of routine surgical procedures in the last two years.
The trust has also been named as a ‘failing trust’ by the Healthcare Commission.
The government appointed health watchdog has said that ten hospitals have to ‘improve’ or have private managements installed.
This means that both Chase Farm, which already faces the closure of its A&E, Maternity and Paediatric departments, and Barnet Hospital face the threat of closure or private takeovers.
Commenting on the Dr Foster agency’s Hospital Guide, BMA council member, Anna Athow, told News Line, speaking in a personal capacity: ‘In fact, patients have shown over and over again that they want their local District General Hospitals to stay open.
‘Because DGHs do not have the funds to keep up with the 18-week wait target, patients are diverted away through no control of their own, to ISTCs.
‘On the back of this forced reduction in their elective work, DGHs are now being accused of being financially unviable, and threatened with closure.
‘Lord Darzi calls this modernising services.
‘ISTCs performing the simpler, quicker cases, cannot compare with comprehensive DGHs providing all acute services and emergency care.
‘What these figures show is that this government is destroying comprehensive secondary care and replacing it with profit-making businesses.
‘The sooner the unions take on and defeat this government, the better.’