UK NHS group commissions healthcare from French providers

 

This includes most hospital and community NHS-funded services, though not primary care or specialised services. The membership organisation represents all 30 GP practices in the area.

It invited organisations that provide treatments including general surgery, gynaecology, cataract surgery, pain management and orthopaedics to apply if they were interested in treating South Kent Coast patients.

Two French providers applied as well as a number of English ones. The CCG carried out a careful assessment of the services they offer and visited the sites.

Subject to contract with the two French providers, it will be possible for patients from Kent who need treatment to choose to have it in France if they wish, after discussion with their GPs. The NHS will pay for medical treatment but patients will pay their own travel and other incidental costs.

It is a matter of choice and an experiment to see how many people take it up and what feedback they offer. Post-operative checkups could be done in France or via Skype but it remains to be seen if patients will be prepared to travel or use the technology available.

One of the hospitals is Centre Hospitalier de Calais, in Calais, and it hopes to see the first UK patients before Christmas and plans to treat between 300 and 400 NHS patients each year. The hospital has been giving English classes to 70 nurses so language would not be a barrier. The other French hospital group is Fondation Hopale, also in Calais.

With the ferry and Eurotunnel it can be quicker and cheaper to travel from Kent to France than to London. Travel costs could vary between around £30 by ferry to £100 by Eurostar.

This is the first official deal between the UK’s NHS and French health providers. It has run into criticism from unions and politicians who argue that the local NHS, which has severe financial troubles, would be better off treating patients at home rather than spending money in France.

The real test will be whether NHS patients in Kent are prepared to travel to France for treatment.

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