NHS Trust accused of ‘front doot’ privatisation with reports of surgery deal

A hospital trust is reportedly set to place all of its scheduled orthopaedic surgery into the hands of a private healthcare company.

The Health Service Journal (HSJ) said the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust (UPH) has agreed an 18-month partnership with Care UK to carry out all its elective orthopaedic surgery.

It has been reported that surgeons and anaesthetists at the trust will move to a Care UK site to help free up hospital space during winter.

Staff will remain employed by the trust but will be jointly managed by Care UK and the deal will see operations carried out on around 200 patients a month, the HSJ reported.

The move is said to be in response to a waiting list of 88 people waiting a year or more for treatment as of May this year, the HSJ said.

Ann James (pictured), chief executive of the trust, and Jim Easton, chief executive of Care UK, described the venture as “effectively a managed service” and that it would be an “untapped financial benefit”.

They said the trust would be a “pioneer” in creating a hot/cold site split of its emergency and elective orthopaedic service.

“This is a different kind of integrated care model where a trust is geographically challenged on a single site and unable to support a split between trauma and elective work alone,” Ms James said.

Elective orthopaedic surgery is pre-arranged non-emergency treatment, including joint replacements – HSJ states the trust will continue to deal with all emergency orthopaedic and trauma treatments.

Mr Easton is reported to have said: “Services will remain free at the point of delivery and the project will allow UPH to focus wholly on prioritising high-quality care during the busy winter period.”

However, the move has been accused of bringing privatisation in through the “front door”.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “This is an unprecedented move that looks like a front door privatisation.

“Imposing upon the NHS the biggest financial squeeze in its history has meant ballooning waiting lists, with patients waiting longer and longer in pain and distress for orthopaedic procedures.

“The fact this hospital feels it has no option but to turn to private sector providers to try to bring waiting lists down and to free up space for winter blows apart Tory claims that austerity has ended.

“The truth is the NHS remains severely underfunded and on the brink of a miserable winter for patients yet again.”

When approached, the trust declined to comment. Care UK has yet to respond.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust.