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Private life of the NHS

13 August, 2020 — By John Gulliver

I HAVE wondered, as I believe many readers will have done, what the threat of privatisation of the National Health Service actually means?

Arguments about how the NHS has become a market­place for competing private companies can be over­whelming – closures of wards, departments, even small hospitals, it is all in the media, but, too often, they become mere statistics.

But I tasted what it meant the other week after I asked my Camden GP for a referral to a clinic for a standard medical test.

Imagine my surprise when I received a call from an organisation I had never heard of called InHealth to book an appointment. After I had fired questions at the caller I discovered I was speaking to a call centre in Cheshire – and the appoint­ment was fixed. A couple of days later the letter arrived, emblazoned with a large NHS logo on the top left-corner, giving every appearance of an official NHS appointment.

In fact, the company behind the appointment is a successful private company, annually netting several million pounds in profit – and where was the appoint­ment to be held? In Wembley.

I was expected to travel from mid-Camden several miles by public transport. It so happens I looked up InHealth and realised that would have been the only available clinic of theirs for my test in this part of London. But a call centre worker, presumably knowing little of London, would not have been aware of the distance from the patient’s home to the clinic.

I assume an arrangement had been made between my GP and InHealth – perhaps because it enables a quicker appointment than would otherwise be possible, perhaps it reduces costs at the surgery. It’s all, at this stage, a mystery.

I have written to my GP expressing my disappointment that it should become part of the encroaching privatisation of the NHS, and stating that I expect to be referred to one of the best departments in the UK for my condition at the famous UCH just a mile or so from my home. I assume there will be a Part Two to this story…­


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