NHS Walk-in Centre charges £25 to treat whiplash injuries
Date: 12/07/2012. Story submitted by: Kevin Meagher
Submitted by: Kevin Meagher
UPDATE 20TH JULY, 2012: CHARGES HAVE BEEN SUSPENDED - FOLLOW LINK BELOW TO NEW STORY
Sheffield’s NHS Walk-in Centre on Broad Lane is charging patients £25 if they have suspected whiplash injuries, a Postcode Gazette investigation has found.
The centre has confirmed that patients reporting with neck and back injuries sustained in a traffic accident are expected to pay a levy for their treatment.
The centre is branded as an NHS service – which leads patients to believe treatment is free.
But the centre is actually run by private healthcare provider, One Medicare, as part of a contract awarded by NHS Sheffield.
The charge came to light after one patient, a 24-year-old woman, was injured after a driver rammed into the back of her car.
She was in such pain during the evening, she went to the Broad Lane centre and was told twice by a receptionist and a doctor that she would be charged for whiplash treatment.
An NHS spokesperson said that they do not levy any charges for the services they provide and that One Medicare is operating its own charging policy.
The Leeds-based company denies this and says NHS Sheffield’s Group Medical Director authorised the charging regime.
Despite repeated requests to divulge details of how much the contract is worth, NHS Sheffield has so far declined to do so. However they have confirmed the contract runs until March 2016.
One Medicare says it is simply following national guidance issued by the British Medical Association, based on a provision in the Road Traffic Act, which allows doctors to charge for treating patients with whiplash involved in a car accident.
But the BMA – the doctors’ trade union – has no statutory powers and a spokesperson confirmed their guidance is just “an interpretation of the Act.”
However in the smallprint of the BMA’s note it says: ‘the provisions laid out in this schedule do not apply for doctors with a salaried NHS post.’
This means that One Medicare - as a private company – can levy the whiplash charge while NHS-employed doctors would not.
One Medicare says on average two patients a month are being charged to have their whiplash injuries treated.
The Broad Lane walk-in centre is in the constituency of Labour MP for Sheffield Central, Paul Blomfield. He said: "I'm shocked at these reports.
"The walk-in centre is breaking the fundamental principle of the NHS - that treatment should be free at the point of use.
"I will be taking this matter up with the walk-in centre and NHS Sheffield."
Walkley councillor Ben Curran, who serves as chairman of the Central Community Assembly which covers the walk-in centre, has also written to NHS bosses to complain about the “disgraceful” policy.
“It flies in the face of the basic NHS values of healthcare being provided free at the point of use.”
His colleague Labour's Coun Mary Lea, Sheffield's cabinet member for health, care and independent living, said she too was “very concerned” about the charge.
“Treatment is free under NHS principles and it is what we all expect. If this is going to be a trend under the health reforms this is a very worrying development,” she said.
Political opposition to the charging policy also came from Sheffield’s Liberal Democrats.
Shaffaq Mohammed, Leader of the Lib Dem Group on the council, said: “I’m appalled by the actions that have been taken and I’d like to thank Postcode Gazette for bringing this discovery to light.
“The NHS is founded on the basic principle that treatment is free at the point of use, so any deviation from that needs to be taken very seriously. I will be writing to NHS Sheffield to make my views clear.”
Address: Broad Lane Sheffield S1 4BS
Tags: NHS, walk-in centre, broad lane, One Medicare, Ben Curran, Mary Lea, Shaffaq MohammedTo comment, please sign-in or register.
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