BOSSES at Warrington Hospital have announced they are pausing the availability of an NHS 'price list' service after a backlash.

The hospital had been accused of increasing privatisation of hospital treatments but said today, Thursday, it would be reviewing the service 'to ensure it can in no way disadvantage NHS patients'.

A spokesperson confirmed: "To date, no NHS patients have been impacted as no one has been treated as part of the My Choice service.

"The Trust continues to meet all of its diagnostic, cancer and referral to treatment standards."

As reported in the Warrington Guardian in November, the trust’s My Choice scheme, which was launched back in 2013, announced the ‘affordable, self-pay service’ would be expanded.

Last year, new treatments were offered to patients who have been denied NHS procedures include hip and knee replacements, cataract and tonsil removals and breast enlargements and reductions.

It stated operations would take place at Warrington Hospital, Halton Hospital and the Cheshire and Merseyside Treatment Centre.

At the time of the expansion, chiefs outlined how the programme includes procedures no longer available on the NHS, and another option for patients classified as being a ‘low clinical priority’ by commissioners at a ‘fraction’ of the cost of private providers.

Warrington North MP Helen Jones raised the concerns of 'creeping privatisation' in Parliament today, Thursday, after the price list was circulated on social media.

She took to Twitter yesterday and attacked the hospital, saying: "Outrageous for our local NHS to restrict access to essential operations and then seek to charge amounts that no one on a normal wage can pay.

"This is creeping privatisation. @WHHNHS."

Andy Carter, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Warrington South, replied: "Labour highlighting supposed privatisation of the NHS but failing to mention the immense PFI deals signed by Blair’s govt. @HelenJonesMP complacent with the facts! @WHHNHS has been clear today, they do not charge NHS patients for NHS treatments and have no intention of doing so."

Private treatments are priced at between £1,072 and £8,447.

The hospital has hit out at claims that it charges NHS patients for NHS funded procedures.

Mel Pickup, chief executive of the trust said: “The trust does not charge NHS patients for NHS funded procedures. Not all healthcare services are funded by the NHS.

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"These services are referred to as Criteria Based Clinical Treatments (previously called Procedures of Low Clinical Priority).

"It is not the role of hospitals to determine which services are funded and which are not. This is the role of NHS commissioners.

"Therefore where a patient wishes to have a procedure that is not funded by the NHS they can approach the private sector.

"Therefore, the trust, like the majority of hospitals is now offering self-funding procedures to their patients.

“The trust launched the My Choice service in September 2018, a self-pay service to enable access for our patients for these services.

"Also included on the list are procedures which are available on the NHS with strict criteria set by the commissioners.

"By offering them via our My Choice service it makes them more accessible for patients who otherwise would not qualify for them under commissioner guidelines.

Warrington Guardian:

“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.

"We are now also able to offer these procedures via our My Choice service to make them more accessible for patients who otherwise would not qualify for them under commissioner guidelines.

"As well as enabling affordable, convenient access for patients, this will enable the Trust to generate additional income to support our other NHS services.

“My Choice is by the NHS, for the NHS. Patients are treated as part of the Trust’s normal elective programme, there are no special privileges and they simply occupy a slot on a scheduled list. There are no private rooms and they will join the same waiting list as other NHS patients.”

Warrington south MP Faisal Rashid said: "I am appalled by the news that Warrington and Halton Hospitals Trust have been advertising a price list for operations that were once free on the NHS.

"This morning, Friday I asked the Leader of the House if the government will make an urgent statement and allow MPs to debate this scandalous privatisation of NHS services.

 “Desperate patients are being left in agony because they cannot afford the private operations on offer at an NHS trust that were once free.

“Vital procedures such as hip and knee replacements cost up to £18,143, cataracts £2,368 and hernias £7,719, way outside most ordinary people’s budgets.

“We are seeing the privatisation of our NHS advertised brazenly to my constituents, with the sick and vulnerable being exploited for profit. 

“This cannot go on – I will fight tooth and nail to protect our NHS.”