The NHS has spent nearly £1.6m on fast-track private health treatment for staff over the past three years, research by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.
The figures, released in response to Freedom of Information requests, shows that more than 3,000 staff had received private treatment since 2006, primarily to access treatments such as physiotherapy, counselling and therapy.
The findings came as NHS occupational health (OH) practitioners were awaiting the imminent publication of the final report from Dr Steve Boorman on the health of NHS staff (see right).
The review, undertaken in response to Dame Carol Black’s review of the health of working-age people, was due to have been passed to the Department of Health for review last month, with publication set to follow shortly.
Boorman’s interim report in August had argued that £555m could be saved if the NHS looked after its staff better, and criticised the inconsistent quality of NHS occupational health provision.
The private treatment figures discovered by the Liberal Democrats show a significant increase in the number of NHS employees being sent to the private sector for treatment, with 708 staff being referred in 2006-07, rising to 988 in 2007-08, and then 1,641 in 2008-09.
Liberal Democrat shadow health secretary, Norman Lamb, said: “It makes sense for the NHS to want to get doctors and nurses back to work as quickly as possible, but these figures will be little comfort for those people stuck on waiting lists trying to get access to treatment.
“If the NHS thinks it necessary to pay for private treatment for its staff to jump waiting lists, then it raises serious questions about whether the current system is working as it should,” he added.