Bullying on the NHS

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Or what to do when Insurance costs too much

If the credit crunch is making you consider cancelling private medical insurance,  don’t let hospitals bully you.

As a courtesy I phoned my Oncologist’s office to say I would probably have to transfer to the NHS – but would pay to see him privately.

He knows my case (complicated because of side effects from hormonal drugs), and I have ongoing problems. So, as I realised that under the NHS clinic system I would not be entitled to see him automatically,  it made sense to stay with a Consultant who is familiar with my case.  And for this I realised I would have to pay.

I was told I could  not do this.

  • Either I was a private patient
  • OR on the NHS.

Top-ups This surprised me – I had been one of the group of patients whom Macmillan sent to the Dept. Health, to argue the case for patients being allowed to ‘top-up’ drugs.  The Dept.  had said anyone paying for drugs privately would have to pay all NHS costs.

We won our case; the Minister climbed down, and patients have the right to pay if they want a drug that hasn’t been approved by NICE, but are also entitled to any treatment that can be provided by NHS, without having to pay for this.

Official Ruling Due to the credit crunch and insurers charging higher premiums, I suspect many private patients will be in the same boat, so I asked a very helpful press officer at the Dept. Health what is the official ruling.  Back she came with:

“The Department has issued clear guidance that patients should not be refused NHS care where they choose to purchase additional private treatment.

“Patients who switch between NHS and private status should not be put at any advantage or disadvantage in relation to the NHS care they receive.  They are entitled to NHS services on exactly the same basis of clinical need as any other patient.”


  • Application of the guidance is a matter for local NHS organisations and clinicians.
  • The guidance makes clear that additional private care should be carried out separately from NHS care.  This means that if you want to have a private consultation, this will have to take place either in private Consultation Rooms in hospitals (only difference is they have better magazines and free coffee!)  or in Consultants’ rooms elsewhere.

Bullying I was threatened that IF I transferred to the NHS, I would have to see a doctor in Clinic; it was highly unlikely that I would see ‘my’ Consultant.

I was reminded  that I would not be able to choose which doctor I saw;  I would be allocated the next one available  (after what might be a long wait)

and appointments in Clinic were planned to only last ten minutes.

With all the complications I have from hormonal drugs, it would take all of those ten minutes to check the medication I am taking.  Then, being unfamiliar with my case, notes on complications from ongoing side effects would take far more than ten minutes to even skim through.

So, yet again one has the tiring scenario of fighting for our rights;  when one is exhausted from after-effects of drugs, why should we have the worry of phoning and writing to get what we are entitled to?

Surely Patients’ wishes should come first?  Especially when we would help hospitals save money?  With all the cuts in funding, a patient who pays to go privately is saving the NHS money – and they make money out of us.   My hospital charges private patients around £50 for ‘use’ of the Consultant’s room for a half-hour appointment – so they would lose that at least.

I found the person to whom I spoke on NHS Direct was extremely helpful in quoting what are our rights, in a clear and understandable manner.  And the nurse was indignant on my behalf – explaning what I am entitled to in clear language, and wishing me luck.

So don’t let ‘them’ bully you – you have the right to NHS treatment AND  to pay for private appointments.

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