[holding answer 15 November 2007]: The Department has no policy of offsetting the cost of private operations.
By December 2008, national health service patients can expect a maximum wait of 18 weeks from general practitioner referral to the start of consultant-led treatment. Most patients will be treated much quicker than that, allowing them to return to work much more quickly where appropriate. Latest figures for patients who started their treatment in August 2007 show that seven out of 10 patients are already being treated in 18 weeks or less.
The introduction of patient choice is increasing patients’ ability to choose a provider that can treat them rapidly. The Hospital Travel Costs Scheme, part of the NHS Low Income Scheme, ensures that no one is denied access to the hospital of their choice because they cannot afford the cost of travel.
Finally, practice-based commissioners have flexibility to use their resources to achieve longer-term budget savings and better patient outcomes by commissioning social care or preventative interventions. Such interventions could be focused on helping people to return to work.