NHS patients going abroad – UNISON reaction

“Stop-gap measures” and “a drop in the waiting list

ocean” that is how UNISON, the UK’s largest health

union, today described the first NHS patients travelling

to Lille for operations.

Karen Jennings, UNISON’s Head of Nursing, said:

“This must come as a welcome relief to these patients

who have no doubt waited a long time for their


“But such moves are a drop in the ocean and do not

help the majority of people still on the waiting list. The

answer lies not in stop-gap measures,sticking plaster

solutions but in building up capacity at home – more

investment, more doctors and nurses, more beds in

better equipped, well run hospitals. In creating an NHS

that has the capacity to tackle not only existing waiting

lists, but has some to spare, in order to deal with blips

in demand like a Winter flu crisis.

“For many, being sent abroad for treatment when you

are frail and ill would be a frightening and disorientating

experience. Being in a strange country, without family

and friends to visit and cheer you up, can make a

hospital stay even more miserable and depressing. It

is not a recipe for a quick recovery.

“If more patients are going to be sent abroad for

operations it is vital that it is clear how they get access

to follow up services such as community nursing or

physiotherapy. The NHS will need to ensure that these

services have extra capacity to deal with additional