NHS operations to go private

MORE than 1,000 patients waiting for NHS operations in the region are to get treatment at Ipswich's Nuffield Hospital in a bid to slash waiting times, it emerged today.

MORE than 1,000 patients waiting for NHS operations in the region are to get treatment at Ipswich's Nuffield Hospital in a bid to slash waiting times, it emerged today.

Around 1,200 people from Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and parts of Essex will have their operations carried out at the private hospital from the middle of May.

The news comes following announcement of a national groundbreaking deal with two independent hospital chains - the Nuffield group and Capio Healthcare UK.

Under the contract the two groups will take on around 25,000 hip, knee and other operations for the NHS nationwide this financial year.

The contracts will help in the Government's aim to slash maximum NHS waiting times to the target of six months by the end of the year.

At Ipswich Hospital alone in January this year, more than 6,000 people were waiting for operations, both inpatient and day case, although that figure will have now reduced.

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The moves will result in possibly several hundred people from each hospital around the region getting faster treatment.

Many of the operations will be orthopaedic operations - a department which is one of the busiest in the NHS and has one of the longest waiting times.

David Jowett, general manager of the Nuffield Hospital in Foxhall Road said: "We expect our first patients by the middle of May and currently will be seeing 750 out patients and around 500 in patients."

He said the operations will be carried out at NHS prices and patients will have the same facilities as private patients - a single en-suite room as well as a good food menu.

Mr Jowett added: "In Ipswich we have co-operated with the Ipswich NHS Trust and them with us and have been doing some procedures for them for some considerable time."

Around 600 patients from North and Mid Essex are also to be treated at the Nuffield through exercising their "choice at nine months option." This means any patient waiting more than the target of nine months for treatment can opt to go elsewhere for their operation at the expense of the NHS - either to another NHS hospital or an independent one.

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital welcomed the new measures which mean patients will be treated faster.

She said that at the end of March 2004, all Government targets had been met and there were no patients waiting longer than nine months.

And she added that those patients waiting the longest for their operations would be the ones to get the Nuffield treatment.

Ms Rowsell: "We warmly welcome these moves which mean that more patients will be treated quicker.

"It will make a substantial difference to those who have been waiting the longest."

Health Secretary John Reid said: "This is great news for thousands of NHS patients who will have their operations more quickly as a result of this agreement.

"I am determined that no NHS patients should wait in pain where we can negotiate cost-effective agreements to use capacity already available in the independent sector in the country."

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