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NHS consultants can refer patients to private hospitals in which they have a stake

Almost 400 NHS consultants own shares in private hospitals to which they refer patients, exposing them to a potential conflict between their income and patients’ best interests, new research reveals.

In all, 371 senior doctors have a stake in some of the private hospitals that are earning more than £1bn a year from NHS trusts. These doctors are referring growing numbers of patients because understaffing and the soaring demand for care means the NHS is struggling to treat people quickly enough.

Another 177 medical consultants own equipment in private hospitals such as CT scanners and lasers, 67 of whom earn a fee each time it is used, according to a study of links between NHS doctors in England and the private sector by the Centre for Health and the Public Interest (CHPI). Overall 548 senior NHS doctors own shares or equipment or both.

David Rowland, the thinktank’s director and author of the report, said the existence of such financial relationships – most of which are hidden from public view – give the doctors concerned a direct financial incentive to refer patients to a private hospital for treatment they do not need.

Read more in The Guardian.

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