NHS centre’s treatment charges defended

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HEALTH bosses have defended the right of a private healthcare firm to charge patients for whiplash injuries at Sheffield’s NHS walk-in centre.

Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians have criticised Sheffield NHS for allowing private firm One Medicare - which is contracted to run the NHS walk-in centre on Broad Lane - to charge £25 to people involved in car accidents.

But the city’s primary care trust says One Medicare is well within its rights to charge for the treatments under a 24-year-old law.

A spokeswoman for NHS Sheffield said: “Healthcare professionals in England, including GPs and ambulance services, have been entitled to charge for the treatment of whiplash for more than 20 years.

“This is taken from the Road Traffic Act 1988 that states it is the responsibility of the person driving the vehicle to pay for the treatment of themselves, their passengers, or those they injure.

“Any healthcare provider can act according to this national guidance which is down to their discretion.”

A spokeswoman for One Medicare said: “The policy operates in line with BMA guidance and is not a company-specific policy. Sheffield walk-in centre adopted the national guidance in September 2011.”

The policy was denounced as ‘disgraceful’ by Coun Ben Curran, Sheffield Council Labour member for Walkley.

Coun Mary Lea, cabinet member for health, said she was ‘concerned’ and Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, Lib Dem group leader, said he was ‘appalled’.

He said: “The NHS is founded on the basic principle that treatment is free at the point of use, so any deviation from that needs to be taken very seriously.”