Thursday 11th July 2013 

This week West Cornwall HealthWatch has launched a poster campaign, entitled "Your NHS needs YOU!" As you will read in the poster, we aim to bring to the attention of the public the possible consequences of patient choice, where they may opt outside the NHS under the Any Qualified Provider legislation. We have produced these posters for distribution across the whole of Penwith and Kerrier.

We feel this is necessary because most people don't really understand or realise the implications of choosing a 'private provider' for their NHS care. Like so many other ideas, patient choice is good in principle - but unfortunately can have unintended consequences, which could prove disastrous for the provision of integrated NHS services in the future. There are scores of private companies out there, longing to 'cherry-pick' some NHS treatments, and making handsome profits for themselves in the process.

Specifically we have concerns about the impact of Duchy Hospital taking patients who would have received orthopaedic outpatient and surgical treatment at St Michael's Hayle; there is now a question mark over its future because its lists are down, and beds empty. Meanwhile, the NHS itself has to maintain the more expensive and complex treatments, such as cancer care, accidents and emergencies, long-term rehabilitation and care, along with all staff training. With money draining away from the NHS to private pockets, it's clear that it will be more and more difficult for the NHS to sustain all that.

As you will see in the poster, over £18,500,000 was paid out of NHS funds to one provider alone (Ramsay Health Care) in Cornwall last year, for NHS treatment at Duchy Hospital and Bodmin Treatment Centre. This trend seems set to continue, or even accelerate; we know that, for example, Specsavers are now offering NHS hearing tests, which is taking business away from the NHS hospitals.

Of course we don't want anyone to feel guilty if they have already chosen to use a 'private' provider for their treatment, and we're sure that no-one has made that choice already knowing that it could threaten our local hospitals. We just want everyone to know and understand the situation, and we are simply asking - 'think before you choose, and think of the future as well as the present'.