The NHS cancelled cancer and hip operations during the pandemic while continuing to perform breast enlargements and nose jobs for private patients.
Figures reveal the health service profited from treating tens of thousands of people who paid for care last year despite claiming to be overwhelmed by coronavirus.
Waiting lists have soared to a record high of 6.1million after the NHS postponed ‘non-urgent’ treatment and urged Britons to stay away due to the pandemic.
But it still found time to carry out operations including tummy tucks, knee replacements and cataract surgery for patients able to pay.
Meanwhile, others have been forced to wait more than two years for essential treatment.
NHS trusts are allowed to supplement their usual taxpayer-funded income by selling private services on the side.
Guidelines say they should ‘ideally’ provide private treatment in a separate building – but it could be in a different area of the hospital or ‘after NHS hours’.
However, campaigners branded the revelation ‘morally outrageous’ last night and asked why health service capacity was not being used to tackle the backlog – which could reach 14million by 2024.
The shocking figures come after leaked draft guidance from NHS England last month showed hospitals have been told to expand ‘private patient opportunities’ to ‘grow’ more income.
Now, data seen by the Daily Mail shows that a number of trusts – particularly in London – generate substantial income from privately paying patients. Some of this came from patients who travelled from abroad.
The NHS performed 42,380 private procedures from October 1, 2020, to September 30, 2021, figures from the government-mandated Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN) suggest.
However, the true number could be far higher as reports redact instances of some procedures where there may be a risk of patients being identified.
There were 40,814 such entries across all NHS sites and procedures over this period.
The Royal Marsden, a specialist NHS cancer hospital in London, accounted for a third of the private patients. Moorfields Eye Hospital and St Mary’s Hospital, both in London, also ranked highly.
The most common private treatments included chemotherapy, cataracts, caesareans and hip replacements.
Professor Pat Price, co-founder of the Catch Up With Cancer campaign, said: ‘It is morally outrageous to see hospitals stripped of NHS capacity for private payers when we face a deadly cancer backlog timebomb.
‘Private care should be enhancing NHS capacity and reducing waiting lists. We should not be giving up NHS beds to revenue raise right now.
Action that takes away from NHS capacity delays treatment and creates further inequality.’
Figures reveal the health service profited from treating tens of thousands of people who paid for care last year despite claiming to be overwhelmed by coronavirus (stock picture)
Sally Gainsbury, of the Nuffield Trust think-tank, said: ‘Record numbers of patients have joined the waiting list for NHS care…With this difficult situation in mind, patients are likely to be asking why – if the health service has the staff and operating theatres available to carry out these private procedures in NHS hospitals – they are not being used to reduce NHS waiting lists and waiting times instead.’
Miss Gainsbury added that health officials now seem to be ‘capitalising’ on the surge in people paying for private treatment.
Patients looking to pay for care at an NHS hospital can ask their GP for a private referral or ask their consultant for more information.
This week, NHS leaders called for the return of masks and social distancing measures, saying high Covid rates were continuing to have a ‘major impact’ on services.
But Downing Street rejected the demands, citing vaccines’ effectiveness as a reason not to re-impose further curbs.
The British Medical Association, which advises its members on how to provide private treatment, yesterday claimed patients could face even longer backlogs if the Government does not impose stricter Covid measures.
A spokesman for NHS England said staff had continued to deliver ‘vital routine care’ during the pandemic and carried out more than 6.3 million procedures in the year from October 2020.
They added that the proportion of private procedures was ‘tiny’ but offered ‘a way of funding additional care and treatments for NHS patients’.