Clinics that treat cases such as broken bones are luring doctors away from NHS, warn critics

Private urgent care clinics are offering an alternative to accident and emergency services for patients who pay to ‘jump the queue’.

The clinics, which charge upwards of £100 for adults, are open until 11pm.

But while many conditions, such as broken bones, can be dealt with at the sites, the most serious cases are still recommended for treatment in accident and emergency departments at conventional NHS hospitals.

Critics say the private clinics may lure away A&E doctors from NHS hospitals at a time when many are struggling to recruit medical staff.

But while many conditions, such as broken bones, can be dealt with at the sites, the most serious cases are still recommended for treatment in accident and emergency departments at conventional NHS hospitals [File photo]

But while many conditions, such as broken bones, can be dealt with at the sites, the most serious cases are still recommended for treatment in accident and emergency departments at conventional NHS hospitals [File photo]

But while many conditions, such as broken bones, can be dealt with at the sites, the most serious cases are still recommended for treatment in accident and emergency departments at conventional NHS hospitals [File photo]

A survey this month of A&E doctors by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine found 80 per cent believe conditions are getting worse and cannot go on the way they are.

HCA, a private healthcare company, now runs five urgent care units – four of which opened this year – including one for children, which charges £150 for a basic consultation. 

And another private healthcare firm, BMI, offers seven units, most of which have opened in the past three years.

Caroline Fox, chief executive of private firm Casualty First in north London, told The Times: ‘NHS A&Es are under pressure with long waiting times and growing demand, but for those with minor ailments patients can choose to come to Casualty First where the average wait is ten minutes.’

But Taj Hassan, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, told The Times that patients who are ‘in any way sick’ should visit A&E, adding: ‘You might have to wait, but I would always say it’s better to stick with the NHS.’

Private urgent care clinics are offering an alternative to accident and emergency services for patients who pay to ¿jump the queue¿. The clinics, which charge upwards of £100 for adults, are open until 11pm [File photo]

Private urgent care clinics are offering an alternative to accident and emergency services for patients who pay to ¿jump the queue¿. The clinics, which charge upwards of £100 for adults, are open until 11pm [File photo]

Private urgent care clinics are offering an alternative to accident and emergency services for patients who pay to ‘jump the queue’. The clinics, which charge upwards of £100 for adults, are open until 11pm [File photo]

Labour health spokesman Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘It’s quite staggering that the crisis in hospital A&Es after years of underfunding, cuts and chronic staff shortages has meant the emergence of a growing market for private sector A&Es.

‘A two-tier Health Service is opening up where the wealthy can the jump the queue and everyone else is forced to wait longer for treatment.’

A Department of Health spokesman said it was ‘committed to providing a world-class NHS that is always free at the point of use’.

Around nine million extra appointments have been made available across England on weekends and evenings, NHS England has said.

It added that every GP practice in England now offers out of hours access to services and this target was met three months ahead of schedule.

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