Private care profits revealed at Gorleston’s James Paget University Hospital

A freedom of information (FOI) request has revealed that the James Paget University Hospital (JPH) made �714,893 from treating private patients in 2010/11.

This is an increase compared to the Gorleston hospital’s profits of �655,241 in 2009/10, but a decrease on the �747,761 in 2008/09 and �841,154 in 2007/08.

This includes prescription charges, private inpatients, private day cases and outpatients, as well as sperm storage and amenity beds.

The JPH said at the time that reduced income and number of private patients being treated was probably due to a combination of factors such as reduced NHS waiting times and the economic downturn.

However, since then there has been concerns raised around waiting lists at the James Paget, particularly in trauma and orthopaedics, the impact of this will become clearer when the next figures become available.

The FOI request by the Mercury’s sister paper the Eastern Daily Press came about after new figures showed that there has been a national increase of nearly 11pc in the number of NHS procedures carried out by the private sector.

However, the amount of NHS work carried out privately in this area remains relatively low, with just 0.3pc in Great Yarmouth and Waveney compared to 2.5pc in Suffolk - also a relatively low figure.

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However the hospital has seen an increase in the number of actual procedures carried out privately but paid for by the NHS over 2011/12, rising from 108 in 2010/11 to 131, but, demand has increased across the board meaning this number does not impact upon the 0.3pc, which is the private activity as a proportion of all activity.

But it also works the other way round. NHS hospitals can make money from treating private patients, money which is then ploughed back into NHS care. For example the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, the county’s biggest hospital trust, made more than �10m from treating private patients in a four-year period.

Until the controversial Health and Social Care Act, foundation trusts were limited to a private income of about two per cent.

That has now been lifted so that foundation hospitals can raise up to 49pc of their funds through non-NHS work.

This lifting of the cap on the amount of private work an NHS hospital can undertake caused widespread concern among unions and patient groups, worried that it would lead to a two-tier health service at the expense of NHS patients.

However, safeguards were put in place which mean any increase of 5pc or more in private income would have to be approved by a foundation trust’s council of governors.

The governors would also have to be satisfied that increasing private income would not interfere with the primary duty of providing NHS care.