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Wednesday, 8 August, 2001, 07:46 GMT 08:46 UK
NHS buys private heart hospital
London's Heart Hospital, which has been bought by the NHS
London's Heart Hospital, which has been bought by the NHS
The government has taken the unprecedented step of buying a specialist heart hospital from the private sector and returning it to the National Health Service.

The luxury private Heart Hospital just off Harley Street in London will join the University College Hospital NHS Trust.

This is the best private cardiac facility in Europe and it matches anywhere else in the world

Sir Richard Needham
The Heart Hospital

The Department of Health (DoH), which paid 27m for the hospital, says it will make a big contribution to reducing waiting times for patients in London and the south east of England.

It is the first purchase of this kind the DoH has made.

The Heart Hospital was an NHS hospital then went out of business and was bought up by the private sector.

Operations double

The deal will enable the NHS hospital to double the number of heart operations it carries out and free up capacity for other types of surgery, although the hospital's 600 private patients will continue on the same basis.


This is actually a bailout of a failing private hospital and it nails the government's lie that the private sector have got all the answer to running these kinds of services

Geoff Martin
Unison
The purchase was signed on Tuesday after NHS chief executive Nigel Crisp concluded weeks of talks with the hospital's Singapore-based owners Parkway Healthcare.

The hospital, which has recently been refurbished with 35 en-suite single or double rooms and four operating theatres, was reported to have been suffering financial problems.

The NHS will take over its staff of 162, four operating theatres and 95 beds.

'Best facility'

Doctors, nurses and technicians will be paid at their old private rates for the duration of their contracts.

Hazel Blears: 'a heaven-sent opportunity'
Hazel Blears: 'a heaven-sent opportunity'
Health minister Hazel Blears told BBC News: "We will be able to double the number of NHS patients treated, and they will get seen much more quickly as well as the facilities coming over to the NHS, the nurses. doctors and technicians are all going to be working in the NHS, so its really going to be a good deal for patients.

"This is almost a heaven-sent opportunity for us."

She added that private patients would continue to be treated at the hospital, but added numbers were likely to fall from the current figure of 600.

The DoH said it would not rule out other, similar, purchases.

Sir Richard Needham, the former Tory Cabinet minister and chairman of The Heart Hospital, told The Times newspaper that building a similar standard of unit from scratch would have cost the NHS many millions more.

"This is the best private cardiac facility in Europe and it matches anywhere else in the world," he said.

Geoff Martin, of Unison, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he wanted to know how many beds would be ringfenced for private patients.

'Taxpayers' bailout'

"If this was the straightforward renationalisation of a failing private hospital we would be very pleased.

"This is actually a bail-out of a failing private hospital and it nails the government's lie that the private sector have got all the answer to running these kinds of services.

"Clearly, they haven't otherwise this hospital wouldn't have been on the edge of going bankrupt."

But University College London Hospital (UCLH) Trust chief executive Robert Naylor maintained the NHS was getting a "fantastic deal".

Private patients

"If we were to rebuild this hospital from scratch in the current location it would probably cost us getting on for twice as much as we paid for it."

Mr Naylor rejected suggestions that the NHS would effectively be subsidising private patients as "ridiculous" and said wages would eventually be brought closer to NHS levels.

"I don't think they are significantly higher - obviously there are variations. Over time we will want to equalise that."

The hospital will become the new cardiac centre of the UCLH.

The hospital's former cardiac unit will become a "fast-track" hospital specialising in orthopaedic and urology operations.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Karen Allen
"Just a mile away are the crowded NHS wards"
Junior Health Minister, Hazel Blears
"It would have been foolish to pass this up"
Sir Richard Needham, The Heart Hospital
"UCLH want to be a world class hospital"
See also:

08 Aug 01 | Health
Heart Hospital - a bargain?
08 Aug 01 | Health
Heart of the matter: Head to head
31 Oct 00 | UK Politics
Labour unease at private health deal
27 Jul 00 | NHS reform
Blair unveils NHS blueprint
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