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Anger at private health care for NHS staff

PUBLISHED: 09:33 12 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:37 06 July 2010

AMBULANCE bosses in East Anglia have been accused of double standards after spending more than £150,000 on sending staff for private treatment rather than NHS healthcare.

AMBULANCE bosses in East Anglia have been accused of double standards after spending more than £150,000 on sending staff for private treatment rather than NHS healthcare.

More than 800 paramedics and other staff with the East of England Ambulance Service Trust, which serves Suffolk and Essex and four other counties, have received private treatment over the past three years, figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats revealed.

Party leaders said it was unfair staff could avoid waiting lists when the public had to wait weeks or months for treatment.

But the trust said staff sometimes needed treatment for injuries suffered lifting and manoeuvring patients or counselling after attending terrible road crashes or other harrowing incidents and private care was the swiftest remedy to get them back to work quickly.

Details of the spending of the trust were revealed in a Freedom of Information request.

It showed that 265 staff received private treatment in 2007-8, at a cost of £71,409, while 264 were treated in 2008-9, costing £75,546.

A further 273 staff received treatment in 2006-7, although no cost figure was available for this year.

Treatment was mostly physiotherapy, counselling and support, and other care.

Neither of the primary care trusts in Suffolk and Essex, or the hospital trusts in Ipswich or Colchester, used private health care, although West Suffolk Hospital in Bury Edmunds paid out more than £50,000.

Nationally, the NHS paid £1.5m for private healthcare in the past three years with more than 3,000 staff sent to private doctors.

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.

“It simply isn't fair to have one service for staff and another for everyone else.

“It would be much fairer if everyone had the right to private treatment, paid for by the NHS, if your local hospital can't provide it when they should.

“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.”

A spokeswoman for the East of England Ambulance Service said: “Our crews can sustain physical injuries and witness traumatic scenes in the course of their duties.

“As a responsible employer, we want to get them back to work as quickly as possible so they can continue to provide services to the people of the east of England, and sometimes they need physiotherapy and counselling services.”

HEALTH bosses spent more than £50,000 treating its staff privately for physio and counselling treatment over the last three years, it has emerged.

New figures show the extent to which the trust running West Suffolk Hospital has used NHS funds to pay for treatment for its workers in the private sector.

Over the course of the last three years 333 members of staff received healthcare, in respect of either physiotherapy or counselling, at a total cost of £56,672.

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