By now you probably know that U.K. hospitals, which have been struggling with the flu, are now charging patients a little more for flu treatment abroad.
As Bloomberg reports, the British National Health Service has implemented a policy that would raise the price of a flu shot in the country by about 5 percent.
The change was announced on March 23 and comes as many British hospitals have reported a significant uptick in the number of patients requiring hospitalization.
As one example, London’s King’s College Hospital reported that its flu emergency department saw an increase in patients seeking care over the last three weeks, while at the University of Birmingham, which is part of the NHS, the hospital reported a 5 percent increase in emergency room visits.
“It is a difficult situation for hospitals, where patients are being treated more and more in the same hospital,” said Paul Taylor, the chief executive officer of the British Society of Anaesthesiologists.
The new policy was introduced to prevent the spread of flu, but some doctors say it’s also an unnecessary increase.
“I think this is probably the single biggest thing we have to look at as a government,” said Dr. David Copley, the director of NHS England’s emergency medicine department.
“In the case of a major pandemic like this, which the U.N. estimates could last three to four weeks, there’s a risk of overcharging for care,” he said.
According to a recent study from Oxford University, U.C. Berkeley, and the University, the U-turn was prompted by concerns about patients being sent home after they’re admitted to hospitals and not being able to return to their homes.
It’s possible that some hospitals may have simply found that charging patients extra to see them at home is a reasonable way to do things.
As for the other side of the coin, it seems the increased cost of flu vaccines is causing some patients to opt for less expensive options like a nasal spray instead of a shot.
“This is a good opportunity for NHS hospitals to get some extra money from the public purse to make up for lost revenue,” said Chris Goad, a spokesman for the British Association of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
He also noted that the policy would not affect people who are receiving free flu vaccines.
“The policy is not aimed at the individual patient,” Goad told Bloomberg.
“There is no cost for the vaccine and there is no price increase for the individual vaccine.”
But it’s important to note that some patients may still be receiving free vaccines even if they’re not being charged more for them.
In a study published in the journal Lancet Infectious Disease last year, researchers looked at two different scenarios for the U.-turn in flu vaccine prices.
In one scenario, patients would have to pay between 5 percent and 10 percent more for the flu vaccine if they opted for a nasal shot, while in the other, they’d have to wait longer to receive the vaccine.
It remains to be seen how these new pricing policies will affect patient satisfaction, but it’s clear that there’s more work to be done to improve flu vaccine pricing in the U, as well.