Today it has been revealed by the Mirror that Warrington and Halton Hospitals Trust is now charging patients for NHS treatments which were previously free.
The National Health Action Party reported last year that NHS England was reclassifying a swathe of procedures as being Procedures of Low Clinical Priority.
In reality, the move - which at the time was condemned by a series of medical professionals - was undertaken to cope with the financial crisis in the health service, a crisis which is a direct consequence of this and past Conservative government policy.
It is this re-branding of a whole host of procedures as being of Low Clinical Priority, which has allowed Warrington and Halton Hospitals Trust to charge patients for their being used.
Some of these procedures include operations such as Knee Replacement surgery, which under the scheme would cost a patient £7,179, or Hip Replacement surgery which would cost £7,060.
The Trust has made a list of all of the privatised surgeries and their costs. Which can be accessed here.
The excuse for the offered by the Trust in its attempts to justify the blatant privatisation of services has been that these procedures are available on the NHS, but simply not for those who do not meet the NHS' own criteria for having access to the treatments.
Mel Pickup, Chief Executive of the Trust, said this to the Mirror:
“It is not the role of hospitals to determine which services are funded. This is the role of NHS commissioners.
Procedures such as hip and knee replacements and cataract removal operations remain available on the NHS in the usual way if the criteria are met.”
However, what this means in reality is that the NHS is rationing treatments and in some cases refusing to provide access to them until the patients witness a serious deterioration in their condition.
For example, one of the treatments which has been privatised is the treatment of Trigger Finger, a painful condition in which a patient's finger can become permanently stuck in a curved state (as if they're about to pull a trigger), it remains to be seen how the refusal of access to a treatment which in itself is a last resort and can be - according to the NHS - up to 100% effective, can be justified on ethical grounds.
The decision to privatise the treatment has been undertaken as a direct consequence of the financial pressures that Conservative and Liberal Democrat sanctioned austerity has wreaked upon the NHS.
Tony O'Sullivan, Chair of Keep Our NHS Public - an affiliated group to the National Health Action Party - reacted to the news by stating: "It is a total disgrace.”
Branding the decision to privatise the treatments as “nasty, as it is privatisation from within. There are many ways the tentacles of private interests envelope our health service. But this rationing of access to health care on the NHS is one of the most blatant ploys. It’s simply disgraceful.”
Dr Alex Ashman, Leader of the National Health Action Party also slammed the decision stating, "this is a disgrace. The National Health Action Party and activists have been warning for years that we have been heading to this point under the Conservatives. But the fact we are now here does not make it any less shocking.
Warrington and Halton Hospitals Trust needs to immediately put an end to this practice. Charging patients for procedures such as hip and knee replacement surgery runs completely counter the ethos upon which the NHS was founded"