The Charging Regulations place a legal obligation on the Trust to make and recover charges for NHS treatment.
- The Trust will ensure that treatment which is immediately necessary is provided to any patient even if they have not paid in advance. Failure to provide immediately necessary treatment may be unlawful under the Human Rights Act 1998.
- Urgent treatment will be provided to any patient, even if deposits have not been secured.
- Non-urgent or elective treatment will not be provided unless the estimated full charge is received in advance of treatment.
Immediately necessary treatment
Immediately necessary treatment is that which a patient needs:
- to save their life, or
- to prevent a condition from becoming immediately life-threatening, or
- promptly to prevent permanent serious damage from occurring.
This will always be provided irrespective of whether or not the patient has been informed of, or agreed to pay, charges. Also it will not be delayed or withheld to establish the patient's chargeable status or to seek payment.
All maternity services, including routine antenatal treatment, are treated as being immediately necessary. Clinicians and other Trust staff will be especially careful to inform pregnant patients that further maternity care will not be withheld, regardless of their ability to pay.
Urgent treatment is that which clinicians do not consider immediately necessary, but which nevertheless cannot wait until the person can be reasonably expected to return home.
The Trust does make every effort to secure payment in the time before treatment is scheduled but if that proves unsuccessful the treatment will not be delayed or withheld for the purposes of securing payment.
While the urgency of treatment is a matter of clinical judgement, this does not mean that the treatment should be unlimited; there may be some room for discretion about the extent of treatment and the time at which it is given.
Non-urgent treatment is routine elective treatment that could wait until the patient can return home.
The Trust will not provide non-urgent treatment unless the patient pays the full estimated cost of the treatment in advance. However, in order to decide if a patient's need for NHS hospital treatment is urgent or can safely await their return home, clinicians will need to know when a patient can reasonably be expected to return home. The decision can be made on the basis of this information.
However, the decision will be reassessed if the patient informs the Trust that their return date has been postponed for valid reasons or if their medical condition unexpectedly changes.
Where a patient is unhappy with the care they have received then they (or someone acting on their behalf with their consent) should be advised on how to make a complaint through the Trust's complaints procedure.