Doctors plan new way to cut waiting list
THREE surgeons at a Suffolk hospital have come up with an innovative plan involving the NHS and private sector which could slash waiting list times.The groundbreaking project has seen consultants Mark Dixon, Isam Osman and David Rae form a company - Better Surgical Services - which will arrange for certain patients at Ipswich Hospital to have operations at a nearby private hospital.
By James Fraser
THREE surgeons at a Suffolk hospital have come up with an innovative plan involving the NHS and private sector that could slash waiting list times.
The groundbreaking project has seen consultants Mark Dixon, Isam Osman and David Rae form a company - Better Surgical Services - which will arrange for certain patients at Ipswich Hospital to have operations at a nearby private hospital.
If the scheme is adopted and proves to be successful it could be used as a blueprint for other hospitals across Britain.
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The three consultants have brokered an initial deal with the privately-run Suffolk Nuffield Hospital to provide up to eight half-day theatre sessions a week for a cost far below their normal rates.
They have also secured the services of 20 colleagues to work with them on routine surgery. The doctors will only do the work after fulfilling their contractual obligations to Ipswich Hospital and will be paid at NHS rates.
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The Nuffield sessions will remain free to patients and reserved solely for those requiring "intermediate service provision" like joint replacement or gallbladder, varicose veins and hernia operations.
These non-life-threatening conditions are given less priority than emergency and cancer treatment, and so are the first to be cancelled due to a lack of beds.
Although the operations will be about 30% higher than the average NHS cost, Mr Dixon, Mr Osman and Mr Rae are confident that the deal is still value for money.
They claim that the Government target to have no patients waiting longer than three months for an operation by 2008 is impossible for hospitals to meet unless some new working practices can be found.
NHS Trusts around Britain are already trying to cut waiting lists by flying patients overseas to be treated or paying specialist surgeons to come from outside sources at weekends.
The consultants view their scheme as a medium term solution, which could run until Ipswich Hospital increases its capacity to cater for more patients.
The plan still has to be given the green light from the Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust but they and the primary care trust have welcomed the initial proposal.
A spokeswoman for the trust said private and public sector concordats are encouraged to make sure that everyone involved works together to bring fast treatment and greater access for patients.
A final decision on the proposal should be made after the new chief executive starts in September.