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MP queries use of moonlighting Germans

PUBLISHED: 09:36 04 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:15 24 February 2010

AN MP has queried whether German doctors hired by a health trust to carry out operations at weekends are being employed because of clinical need or to meet Government targets.

AN MP has queried whether German doctors hired by a health trust to carry out operations at weekends are being employed because of clinical need or to meet Government targets.

Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust is flying the eye specialists in from Germany to perform operations on 1,000 patients over a period of 21 weekends.

The £1.5 million initiative is aimed at cutting the waiting time for cataract operations from 14 months to six months.

The surgeons will conduct the operations at the Essex County Hospital in Colchester before flying back to Germany on Mondays.

Rachel West, directorate manager for surgical operations at the trust, said the project was being funded by the Department of Health.

"The Government is committed to bringing in doctors to this country from overseas where there are particular problems with a waiting list," she added.

"Cataract surgery is the most frequently-performed surgery carried out by Essex Rivers Healthcare and the demand for it is high because of the particularly elderly profile of our population."

It is hoped the initiative will see waiting list figures for cataracts drop from 1,892 to about 800 by the autumn.

But Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative MP for North Essex, said: "Can Essex Rivers Healthcare assure the public this is not just about meeting Government targets, regardless of genuine clinical needs?"

"Why is it that when the Government says the NHS is doing well, we are bailing it out with the German health service, which is an insurance-based system based on private healthcare?

"We have got to learn from European countries about why their health care is so much better than ours."

But a spokesman for the Department of Health said: "This is one of 12 schemes across the country where we have arranged for overseas clinical teams to come and clear some of the backlog. It all seems to be going well."

An Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust spokesman added: "This is not costing the trust anything. We see it as a good initiative for our patients.

"Quality of life can be severely impaired by cataracts. Demand for these operations, because of the higher average age of the local population, was out-stripping supply."

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