“A French hospital has invited NHS patients whose operations have been cancelled because of winter overcrowding to be treated free in Calais.
Despite a flu outbreak even worse than the one in Britain, France has said it has plenty of space for British patients for routine surgery paid for by the NHS.
As NHS hospitals warn that people are dying on corridors, and abandon a three-month waiting time target for routine operations, Calais Hospital is trying to tempt Britons with private rooms, en suite bathrooms, free parking, English-speaking staff, wi-fi and waits of less than a month.
Under a deal struck in 2015, patients can opt for surgery in France and the NHS in Kent will pay standard rates to Calais Hospital. The hospital can take 400 NHS patients a year, it says. “When the NHS is forced to cancel all non-urgent surgery until February, NHS patients can turn to the Centre Hospitalier de Calais.”
NHS England told hospitals last week to cancel routine operations to make space for rising numbers of winter patients. This week the heads of half of England’s A&E departments told Theresa May that hundreds of patients were being treated in corridors.
Santé Publique France, the French health service, reports 423 GP consultations for flu-like symptoms per 100,000 people, more than ten times the rate in England. However, fewer end up on wards, with 1,265 admissions to hospital, compared with an estimated 4,000 in England.
Thaddée Segard, a businessman who helped to broker the deal with Calais, said he did not expect flu to cause difficulties. “The difference between UK and French hospitals’ capacity is merely a question of state policies,” he said.
South Kent Coast Clinical Commissioning Group said it had yet to see an upsurge in referrals.
The Royal College of GPs said yesterday that flu had “taken off” in Britain, with twice as many consultations as last year. It warned that flu was so unpredictable it was impossible to know whether it would become an epidemic.
Pat Cattini, of the Infection Prevention Society, advised people who catch flu: “The best thing to do is take yourself away from other people until you feel better, which can take a week. If you do bring it into GP waiting rooms you’re potentially going to infect others.”
Source: The Times (pay wall)