21 WHSCT workers on private insurance

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Twenty-one health service workers employed by the Western Trust take out private insurance for their personal health needs, it can be revealed.

The Trust acknowledged a small number of its staff are hedging their bets in terms of health treatment and are paying for private care in monthly instalments.

In a statement the Trust confirmed: “We have been advised that there are currently 21 staff members in the Western Trust who have deductions made from their monthly salary for payment to a private health company.”

The Trust gave no indication of the workers’ levels of pay or whether they are administrative or clinical staff.

Meanwhile, it can also be revealed that over the past seven years an astronomical £367.9m has been transferred from the public coffers to private health providers to pay for 418,350 treatments and appointments for NHS patients across the entire Northern Ireland health service.

Between 2007/8 and 2013/14, 299,370 new and review outpatient appointments for public patients were delivered by private providers.

And during the same period 118,980 inpatient and day case treatments of public patients were undertaken by private practitioners on the health services behalf.

And the spending hasn’t reduced over the past seven years. If anything it has increased.

According to the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), which released the information, £40.1m was paid to private companies or practitioners for seeing public patients in 2007/8. But, this leapt to £67m in 2013/14, the highest spend in any of the last seven years.

In 2012 the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) said the Western Trust, amongst others, was spending a lot on locum doctors.

Back then the Western Trust employed 71 locum doctors - some paid over £100k - in order to cover vacancies, sick leave, maternity leave, and to relieve backlogs of work or additional workload. According to a report published by the NIAO a huge £25m was spent on locums in the Western Trust between 2007/8 and 2010/11.