Some NHS back, neck and foot patients in Northamptonshire will have the choice of free private care instead from this week.
Under the NHS’s new ‘any qualified provder’ (AQP) policy, NHS Northamptonshire has selected parts of podiatry and musculoskeletal services to be the first AQP services.
It means patients with particular ailments will be asked by their GP whether they want to go to one of a range of private medical companies or the local NHS for treatment.
Those who will be able to choose from Monday include all adults and children with low-level foot conditions, such as in-grown toe nails, corns, calluses, bunions and hammer toe.
The trust’s physiotherapy out-patients service will also offer the choice to patients with back and/or neck conditions.
An NHS spokesman said: “All services will remain free, however, patients can choose from a range of providers who are qualified to provide safe, high quality care and treatment, and select the one that best suits their needs.
“Also, patients referred into the trust’s AQP physiotherapy out-patients service will be seen within two weeks.”
Non-pregnancy ultrasound scans are soon to be added to the list and Northamptonshire Healthcare said there may be others in future.
Unions fear the new unpredictability of patient numbers threatens NHS services, but Northamptonshire Healthcare said it was confident of attracting enough patients, and therefore money, to keep them open.
The spokeswoman said: “The overarching aim of the scheme is to provide increased choice for patients. Healthcare providers will be working to ensure that patients receive the best possible service and therefore providers will be able to maintain levels of service provision.”