AQP (Any Qualified Provider) is taken one step further by Kent CCG. Since East Kent is facing a large deficit and is under special measures with regard to outcomes, the decision to outsource is unsurprising. It is the prolonged mismanagement and perverse incentive to do nothing at strategic and political levels which is disappointing, and which the UK Media needs to be questioning. If the outsourcing applies to Kent, why not to other Regions of the UK if patients are prepared to pay for their travel? (Except Wales which prohibits choice outside your own Trust – Rhodri Morgan 2004). The real question for the media should be “can the fragmented UK health services recover without some form of zero-based budgeting and revolutionary reconfiguration based on overt rationing?”
NHS patients in Kent could soon be travelling to France for surgery under a new deal being finalised.
Centre Hospitalier de Calais has bid to provide services to patients in the county, NHS commissioners said.
South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said the “finer details” were being worked out.
People who chose to have treatment in France would pay for their own travel and incidental costs, it said. The union Unison said it was a gimmick.
Hazel Carpenter, chief accountable officer for South Kent CCG, said treatment in France would be an option if a patient wanted it, in discussion with their GP.
She said commissioners recently invited organisations to provide general surgery, gynaecology, cataract surgery, pain management and orthopaedics to apply for the work, and two French providers applied as well as several English providers.
“We carried out a careful assessment of the services they offer and are visiting sites,” she added.
“The two French providers, among others, fulfilled our criteria and we expect to finalise a contract with them.”
Analysis: Mark Norman, BBC South East Today Health Correspondent
The devil is in the detail here. It seems a good idea to use spare capacity in France for NHS patients waiting for general surgery, but…
Neither the French nor the NHS have decided how the Calais clinicians will access patient records and it is unclear how post-op check-ups will be done.
The French hospital says it can see patients but it is a long expensive journey for a 10 minute check-up.
What happens if something goes wrong? Will sick patients have to cross the Channel and who will pay for their care?
Meanwhile, the East Kent Hospitals Trust, already in special measures and struggling financially, could now lose the income from up to 300 patient operations a year.
Off the record, the trust told me it had not been involved in the discussions so far.
The French hospital hopes to see the first UK patients before Christmas and plans to treat between 300 and 400 NHS patients per annum.
Martin Trelcat, general manager of the Calais hospital, said it had been giving English classes to about 70 nurses and language would not be a barrier.
Simon Bolton, Unison spokesman, said it was “an admission of failure” by the NHS.
He said the CCG had failed to make sure the NHS could tackle waiting lists, which he said were lengthening because of government cuts.
Adding that patients wanted to be treated as quickly and as close to home as possible, he said: “The idea that this is some great consumer choice is frankly crazy.”
Damian Collins, Folkestone and Hythe MP, said it was sensible to use a fantastic hospital that might be less than an hour away from some and more accessible than hospitals in London.
He said using Calais would help deal with NHS overcrowding and added: “If this deal hadn’t been struck, I’m sure we’d have had people coming to us saying there’s capacity in the hospital in Calais.”