NHS trust sent cancer patient adverts for private clinic

A terminally ill cancer patient has protested after the NHS hospital where she receives palliative therapy included advertisements for a private clinic with her appointment letter.

Ali Schofield, 33, who has secondary breast cancer, said the inclusion of the leaflets for Nova Healthcare was “disgusting” and “distressing”. It would make patients believe that NHS care was “second class” and they should pay for private treatment.

“I felt really cold when I saw the leaflet because it suggested that I would have better healthcare if I was to go private,” she said. “It offered me access to the latest technologies and made me think: so what am I getting now? It’s disgusting. It puts the seed of doubt into you.”

Schofield, a lifestyle journalist and collage artist, said she was appalled that the NHS had used her medical records to include promotional material for a private company. She also criticised the fact that posters for Nova have been put on the walls of the oncology unit at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds where she goes for her chemotherapy.

Nova, which has a contract with NHS England to provide specialist “gamma knife” radiotherapy, uses the fourth floor of the Bexley Wing at St James’s to offer consultations and daycare for private patients, while NHS patients including Schofield receive their treatment on the first floor.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs St James’s, has apologised to Schofield and said it would no longer send the leaflets. “Since October 2016 we have sent out around one million letters to patients. Fewer than 1,000 Nova leaflets were included in patient letters,” a spokesman said.

The inclusion of the letters appears to be a breach of NHS England guidelines forbidding the practice. They state that: “Trusts that offer private healthcare services should market and promote their private healthcare services completely separately. They should not market or promote these services within their NHS communications to patients and the public, eg appointment letters [and] NHS test results.” The trust did not explain why the leaflets had been included in the first place.

Article from The Guardian, 5 August 2017