THE HEALTH and Social Care Bill has been revised to allow nearly half of foundation hospital income to be raised from private patient beds and operations.
Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, wants to abolish the current two per cent cap, introduced by Labour in 2003, on private patients, and raise it to 49 per cent.
He has avoided putting a figure on private patient share until now.
‘If these hospitals earn additional income from private work that means there will be more money available to invest in NHS services,’ Lansley said in a statement.
‘Furthermore, services for NHS patients will be safeguarded because foundation hospitals’ core legal duty will be to care for them.’
All hospitals are due to become foundation hospitals by 2014, whilst completing a cuts programme of ‘efficiency savings’ amounting to £20 billion by 2015.
The Bill itself is still going through the House of Lords.
The latest amendment was made by Health Minister Earl Howe just before Christmas.
For the Labour Party, the shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: ‘This surprise move, sneaked out just before Christmas, is the clearest sign yet of David Cameron’s determination to turn our precious NHS into a US-style commercial system, where hospitals are more interested in profits than people.
‘With NHS hospitals able to devote half of their beds to private patients, people will begin to see how our hospitals will never be the same again if Cameron’s Health Bill gets through Parliament.’
• Senior staff in Primary Care Trusts have been sent a letter asking that they resign before the end of December, according to the Labour Party.
Burnham warned of a ‘leadership vacuum’ in the NHS even though the coalition government is pushing through unprecedented attacks on the health service.
‘By combining the financial challenge with the biggest-ever reorganisation, the government has created the conditions for a perfect storm that threatens to engulf the NHS in 2012. The government is steering the NHS towards the rocks and, unbelievably, is now busy throwing captain and crew overboard,’ said Burnham, calling for an immediate halt on the ‘forced resignations’.
l The Department of Health has confirmed that cuts of £5.9bn from the NHS are ‘on track’ for the financial year, with £2.5bn already cut in the first six months.
The DoH maintains that these are ‘efficiency savings’ and that improvement targets are being met.