HC Deb 24 July 1979 vol 971 cc122-3W
46. Mr. Coleman

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps he intends to take to urge health authorities to recover the approximate £77 per pay bed per year being lost in the National Health Service in England.

Dr. Vaughan

I assume the hon. Member is referring to sums written off due to defaulting on payments by private patients in National Health Service hospitals. The information received from authorities relating to bad debts is not analysed in a way which enables amounts written off in respect of defaulting by private patients to be separately identified, so I cannot comment on the estimate of losses of £77 per pay bed per year.

Patients admitted to NHS hospitals seeking private treatment are required to give, or be the subject of, an undertaking to pay hospital charges. Accounts are normally rendered weekly and patients are expected to settle their accounts before they are discharged. It is within the discretion of local management to ask paying patients for a deposit before their admission which may cover a part or the whole of the cost of their expected duration of stay.

Where accounts are not settled it is the responsibility of the health authority concerned to ensure that all practicable steps are taken to recover debts including, where appropriate, action through the courts. The write-off procedures set out in my reply on 3 July are used only when all ways of recovering debts have been exhausted. Authorities are aware of their responsibilities and I do not think further guidance is necessary. I will keep the matter under review.