UK: Rishi Sunak registered with private healthcare provider offering £250 consultations while national public healthcare in disarray

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak

Photo : IANS

New Delhi: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is registered with a private GP practice that guarantees that all patients with urgent concerns about their health will be seen “on the day”. The clinic situated in a posh area of London charges £250 for a half-hour consultation and, unlike most National Health Services (NHS) GPs across the UK, it offers appointments in the evenings and at weekends, as well as consultations by email or phone that cost up to £250 (Rs 25,000).

A report by the Guardian which did not name the clinic has said that patients of the same clinic as the UK Prime Minister clinic can request home visits from doctors for which they are charged between £400 and £500, depending on the time at which they arrive. The clinic also charges up to £80 for prescriptions.

Why is this relevant?

This report comes amidst huge concerns expressed by citizens over the inadequacy of the public healthcare system, the NHS. The Latest NHS England figures show that most patients have to wait longer for an appointment. Similarly, 41.5% of GP appointments in September took place on the same day, with a further 8% taking place the following day. Notably, 19% of appointments took place between two and seven days after booking, while 13.5% of patients had to wait up to two weeks, and 5% more than a month.

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What does Rishi Sunak have to say?

Sunak refused to answer questions at the G20 summit in Bali last week about whether he had private healthcare, saying only that it was “not appropriate” to talk “about one’s family’s healthcare”. Earlier this month during prime minister’s questions he dodged the issue when asked by MPs if he would use a GP or accident and emergency service if he or a family member of his were unwell – or “pay privately” to see someone more quickly. He responded by praising the team at the NHS Friarage hospital, in Northallerton in his constituency, which he said had provided “excellent care” to his family, but did not fully answer the question.

Notably, earlier during the summer leadership campaign, he said, “You wouldn’t expect me to talk about my kids’ medical [history], but of course we use the NHS.”

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What does this mean for the country?

Downing Street declined to comment on the prime minister’s decision to use a private GP practice. However, last week Sunak’s government recommitted to a promise made earlier by his predecessor Liz Truss that no patient would wait longer than two weeks to see a GP. The government also pledged that everyone who needs an urgent appointment would be able to get one on the same day, reported the Guardian.
Paul Evans, director of the NHS Support Federation, an independent group of researchers and journalists, said: “The NHS can consistently provide responsive care to the whole population, but only when it is properly funded. Private healthcare is not a realistic option for most people. Of course, the PM can ‘go private’ if he wishes, but it is a reminder that we need politicians that have a long-term belief in the publicly run NHS which most of us rely upon.” Dr Ellen Welch, a GP and co-chair of the Doctors’ Association UK, said, “If NHS general practice continues to be neglected and private practice becomes the norm, it is the least well-off who will suffer.”
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