THE manager of a York GP surgery at the centre of a privatisation storm has defended his practice’s actions.
Haxby and Wigginton Health Centre sparked national controversy after writing to about 30 patients offering them a range of minor procedures privately through a company owned by the practice, claiming NHS North Yorkshire and York had ceased funding for them.
Health chiefs yesterday denied some of the treatments were no longer available on the NHS and announced they were seeking urgent talks on the matter.
But John McEvoy, the centre’s managing partner, defended its actions. Mr McEvoy said the letter had listed other private providers as well as the practice’s own clinic. He said: “We didn’t really want to do this, but as the NHS has stopped funding for some minor procedures, we decided to fill the service gap.”
The letter listed eight treatments, but the health trust said three of these – draining fluid from cysts and treating viral warts and ingrowing toenails – were still being routinely commissioned by the NHS. It also said its exceptions panel allowed treatments that were not routinely commissioned if there was a “particular clinical need”.
NHS North Yorkshire and York’s policy was to not routinely commission procedures deemed “relatively ineffective” or “low priority”. Treatments such as cataract and varicose vein surgery where there was a close balance between benefits and risks, or where “cost-effective alternatives” may be available, were subject to clinical criteria.
Dr David Geddes, NHS North Yorkshire and York’s medical director, is now planning urgent talks with the centre, and said the trust had “significant concerns” about the letter and would have advised against sending it out if it had known about it in advance.
The trust is also understood to be unhappy about confidential patient information possibly being used for marketing purposes.
Coun Tracey Simpson-Laing, City of York Council’s cabinet member for health: said: “This is a disturbing development if a local GP practice is taking up powers planned through the Health And Social Care Bill before it becomes legislation.
“GP consortia gaining some discretion over which services it delivers free to patients and which can be charged for is the reality of the current plans.”
York Central MP Hugh Bayley said he was looking into whether Government guidance had been given to GPs about advising patients on which treatments they would have to pay for, or whether the letter was purely the centre’s decision.
The Royal College of GPs has said the distinction between NHS and private treatments was in danger of “becoming increasingly blurred”, while the British Medical Association said it was concerned about “potential conflicts of interest”.