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National Health Service (Private Patients)

Volume 977: debated on Monday 28 January 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will publish a table showing, for each of the past five years, the amount of fees collected from private patients in National Health Service establishments, the amount of these payments which are regarded as arrears and the amount which has been written off as bad debts.

Income from NHS private patients in England for each of the years 1974–75 to 1978–79 was as follows:

1974–75£15·9 million
1975–76£20·3 million
1976–77£25·4 million
1977–78£28·9 million
1978–79£30·6 million
Information about the speed of settlement of debts is not collected centrally. No figures can therefore be given of the level of arrears. The practice of taking deposits equal to the total estimated cost of treatment is spreading in the NHS, and this will help to reduce the problem of slow payment.The total amount written off in respect of defaulting by private patients in any one year is not known. Although each health authority, regional, area and board of governors, submits to the Department with its annual accounts a statement of losses analysed into broad categories, the figures relating to bad debts are not analysed in a way which enables amounts in respect of private patients to be identified separately. Such detail could only be obtained by addressing a special inquiry to every health authority and the cost of this inquiry would be disproportionate.