To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many NHS patients have been referred to (a) private hospitals and (b) hospitals in European countries for treatment in each year since 1997: and what the cost was to the NHS of these referrals. 
The Department of Health does not hold information centrally on the total number of national health service patients referred to private hospitals. No patients were referred for treatment abroad under the direct referral system before 2002. In 2002, 228 patients were treated abroad. To date, a further 204 patients have been treated abroad in 2003.190 patients were referred abroad as part of a pilot project between January and April 2002. The project was funded centrally, and the overall cost was £1.1 million. Following on from the pilot, a further £2.1 million of central money has been spent to fund treatment abroad in five different health authority areas. The amount spent by NHS commissioners on purchasing treatment from private sector providers is not separately recorded.