latest health care news

08.09.15

Kent patients could go to France for NHS treatment

NHS patients in Kent could choose to go to France for an array of medical treatments as a result of a new deal being finalised with two providers.

South Kent Coast CCG is looking into outsourcing procedures to the Fondation Hopale and the Centre Hospitalier de Calais, including general surgery, gynaecology, cataract surgery, pain management and orthopaedics.

The CCG said this would give patients greater choice, enabling them to discuss with their GPs the possibility of French treatment should they be able to cover their own travel costs.

Its chief accountable officer, Hazel Carpenter, added that a number of English providers had also applied for the bid.

She said: “We carried out a careful assessment of the services they offer and are visiting the sites. The two French providers, among others, fulfilled our criteria and we expect to finalise a contract with them.

“It will then be possible for patients who need this treatment to choose to have it in France if they wish, after discussion with their GPs. The NHS will pay for their medical treatment but patients will pay their own travel and other incidental costs.

“It is purely a matter of choice and we will be very interested to see how many people take it up and what feedback they give us.”

Martin Trelcat, general manager of the Calais hospital, told the BBC that the provider had been giving English classes to around 70 nurses, ensuring language would not be a barrier.

A spokeswoman for the NHS South East Commissioning Support Unit also told them that French providers would operate like other NHS referrals, with GPs sharing patient information and receiving discharge and care plan details post-treatment.

Providers would offer patients round-the-clock access to the surgical team for the two weeks following their treatment, as well as cover readmission costs to the hospital within a month of discharge.

Follow-up checks could be carried out by phone, Skype or through another hospital visit.

Damien Collins, Tory MP for Folkestone and Hythe, claimed that it was “sensible” to use a hospital that could be less than an hour away for some people and “more accessible than hospitals in London”.

However the plans faced backlash from Unison, as Simon Boulton, a former learning disability nurse and regional health organiser for the union, said the plan was “barking” and “frankly crazy”.

He added that it was an “admission of failure” by the NHS: “What the local commissioners should be doing is working out a way to get the waiting lists down but they won’t do that because that means they have to challenge the government over funding and they won’t do that for political reasons.

“This is a lovely whizzy-wig dream someone’s dreamed up to cover up the fact that the acute trust, East Kent University Hospitals Trust, is doing badly. Rather than address it, they’re coming up with stuff to distract the public and calling it choice.”

That trust is currently in special measures following a CQC inspection in August 2014 that rated the provider as ‘inadequate’ in terms of safety and leadership.

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