London 2012: Olympic VIP 'A&E fast-track'

Newsnight's Jim Reed reports on priority NHS care during the Olympics

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Doctors have raised concerns that Olympic VIPs could receive fast-track emergency care during the games.

Emails seen by Newsnight suggest that 25,000 people in the "Olympic family" could expect to see a consultant within 30 minutes at University College Hospital (UCLH).

Olympic organisers Locog dismissed the 30-minute claim as an "urban myth".

NHS London says the arrangement did appear in a draft agreement but will not be part of new guidance.

In one email, senior trauma doctors at UCLH raise concerns about a "conflict of interest" if on-call doctors treat VIPs while the department is "struggling with the NHS wait".

Homerton hospital - another Olympic healthcare provider - earlier told the BBC that the 30-minute response time did apply to all hospitals designated to handle Olympic patients.

Liberal Democrat Olympics spokeswoman Baroness Doocey criticised the arrangements.

Start Quote

UCLH will look after emergency treatment and admission of the Olympic Family… we will deliver a consultant to do that within 30 minutes of their arrival”

End Quote Email from senior trauma doctor

"It should not be one rule for the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and VIPs and another rule for the taxpayers who are actually paying for the NHS," she said.

"The idea of them jumping the queue is to me, absolutely horrific. It's completely unacceptable and it's morally wrong.

"The idea of them being able to see a senior consultant rather than anyone who happens to be on duty at the A&E department is completely unjustifiable. It is so wrong I cannot even imagine it is happening."

The typical wait for NHS treatment in UCLH's emergency department is 81 minutes, according to the latest statistics, published in December 2011.

The Department of Health says £1.83m has been given to NHS London to enable them to meet the bid commitments and to make sure plans are in place to cover any impact of the Games.

"This includes treating Games Family members whilst making sure the hospitals continue to deliver health services to local residents," they said.

Dedicated clinics are being established at hotels in central London and the Olympic site in Stratford, where they will handle most of the medical care likely to be required by athletes, officials and accredited media.

However, treatment for the most serious cases will still be delivered through existing A&E departments.

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

NHS London said the 30-minute promise was part of an early draft and it was now in the process of issuing final guidance which would not include that guarantee.

Treatment in A&E was always on the basis of clinical priority first, and this applied to everyone, it told Newsnight.

UCLH said it was putting aside four beds especially for Olympic Family members but it claimed no VIP would get special preferential treatment and stressed there was no 30-minute fast-track deal.

The A&E promise is just one of many special arrangements being put in place for Olympic VIPs. Block bookings in the best hotels, chauffeur driven BMWs and a fast lane through immigration at Heathrow are just a few of the other perks on offer.

One of the key figures behind the 2012 bid, Simon Clegg, was so involved in negotiations to host the Games that his is one of three British signatures on the IoC contract which secured the Olympics for London.

Speaking generally about the competition to win the Olympic Games, he said the International Olympic Committee had come to expect special treatment across the board.

Labour MP Frank Dobson says privileged A&E access would be "ridiculous"

"There will be some people I have no doubt who will look at this and say that those people in positions of authority in the Olympic movement and across world sport are being treated quite royally," he said.

"But that is the level of expectation that there is in world sport.

"If we hadn't committed to deliver that as part of the bid process - which is a requirement, an IOC requirement - then quite frankly the bid would have failed.

"So whether people like it or not, we need to deliver in the vast majority of these areas because it's what's expected to host the Olympic Games."

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