The British Medical Association (BMA) yesterday expressed its concerns over Primary Care Trusts diverting patient referrals to private treatment centres from NHS hospitals, while they are instructing the NHS hospitals that waiting times for routine operations be kept to the maximum allowed, 20 weeks.
Referring to these reports, a BMA spokeswoman told News Line: ‘We are aware that in some parts of the country referral to private treatment centres is happening.
‘These are examples that show the government’s reforms for the NHS are not working.’
She confirmed: ‘We have seen examples of local NHS bodies extending the waiting times for patients.
‘We understand the financial pressures that trusts are facing to break even in the current financial year.
‘But this makes a mockery of patient choice and cannot be in the best interest of patients.’
Meanwhile, campaigners and health staff have been taking part in vigils at hospitals in Sussex in protest at plans to close A&Es and maternity units.
Twelve-hour vigils were held on Saturday at Eastbourne District General Hospital and the Conquest Hospital in Hastings, where there are plans to move maternity services to one site.
And 24-hour vigils took place from Saturday evening at Worthing Hospital and the Princess Royal at Haywards Heath, where A&E departments face closure in favour of minor injury units.
Defend Conquest Hospital vigil organiser Margaret Williams said: ‘We want to send out a clear signal to the powers that be that we will not lose our core services, they must be kept local.’
Eastbourne organiser Liz Walke said a decision to close a total of ten children’s beds in Eastbourne and Conquest hospitals had already caused staff ‘great anxiety’.
She stressed: ‘It is the vulnerable groups in our community, the pregnant mums, babies, the old, the young and the very sick, who are most at risk if the NHS management has its way.’
In Wales, over 400 people attended a Christmas carol service outside Builth Wells Hospital as part of a campaign against plans to cut services at Llanidloes, Knighton, Bronllys and Builth Wells.
The Builth Against Closing Hospitals (Bach) action group says the cuts would lead to the Builth Wells Hospital’s closure.
Meanwhile, Welsh hospices say they are facing a financial crisis which threatens the future of their services.
The charity, Help the Hospices, said Welsh Assembly government funding commitments – of £2m for Welsh hospices in next year’s budget – were not enough to solve long-term financial issues.
The twelve charitable hospices in Wales receive only 15 per cent state funding on average, compared with 40 per cent in Scotland.
Help the Hospices has welcomed the Assembly’s commitment, but has questioned the difference it will make. The issue will be debated in the Welsh Assembly today.