NHS hit out at BBC

Scottish Ambulance Service vehicle outside the Border General Hospital in The Scottish Borders.
Scottish Ambulance Service vehicle outside the Border General Hospital in The Scottish Borders.

NHS Borders chief executive has stuck the boot into the BBC for its interpretation of the health board’s spending on private healthcare.

Former footballer Calum Campbell said the corporation “misrepresented” the information provided to them by combining two different categories to come up with a figure of £3.75 million for 2012/13.

The seven-figure sum dwarfs that of neighbouring board NHS Dumfries and Galloway (£1.59m) and leaves NHS Borders as the fourth highest spenders on private health services in Scotland.

BBC Scotland uncovered the figures for all 14 Scottish health boards via Freedom of Information requests and found that, following the waiting lists scandal, overall spending on private healthcare had increased by 60 per cent last year to more than £40m.

However, Newstead bosses argue that the majority of the cash is spent on residential care, such as for Borderers with learning disabilities or challenging behaviour, rather than sending patients to non-NHS facilities to reduce waiting lists.

NHS Borders says spending on acute care in 2012/13, which includes patients needing specialist treatments not provided by NHS, addiction services, specialist mental health care, therapies, as well as cutting waiting lists, stood at £168,264.

But residential care expenditure was £3,587,122, producing a grand total of £3,755,386.

An NHS Borders spokeswoman said: “Our response to the FoI request submitted by the BBC clearly split the figures into the two categories. However, the figures published are the total of these two sums. This gives an inaccurate picture of NHS Borders waiting list funding.”

Mr Campbell added: “I am disappointed that the BBC chose to misrepresent the information provided to them.

“NHS Borders staff work extremely hard to manage our waiting lists and ensure our patients receive the best care that we can offer.

“The implication that we have simply increased the number of patients being sent to non-NHS services to achieve this is very unfair to our staff.”

The biggest spenders on private healthcare in 2012/13 was NHS Lothian at £12.52m, up from £3.06m in 2011/12.

The health board was at the centre of the waiting times controversy after being found to have labelled patients who refused to travel to England for treatment as unavailable for social reasons. The BBC had not responded to a request for comment when TheSouthern went to press.