A private Swedish healthcare company is to set up NHS treatment centres in eight places across England.
Ministers say 60,000 patients have been helped by private partnership
Capio Healthcare will perform operations for the NHS as part of a move to cut patient waiting lists.
The NHS will pay Capio £210m to carry out up to 19,000 operations each year, in what is believed to be the biggest deal yet with a private contractor.
The centres will treat their first patients in March 2005, specialising in hip, knee and other orthopedic surgery.
The centres will be in the health authority regions of East Cornwall, East Lincolnshire, West Lincolnshire, North
Oxfordshire, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, North and East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire, Southampton and Milton Keynes.
Five of the centres, which will be run mainly by non-NHS doctors and nurses, will be newly built.
The West Lincolnshire unit will be based in part of an existing NHS hospital, while Capio will use its existing facilities in Reading, Oxford and Salisbury.
Health Minister John Hutton, who announced the new contract, said it would provide operations at well below rates currently charged in the private sector.
He said: "I am determined that no NHS patient should wait in pain where we can negotiate good value agreements with the independent sector."
Mr Hutton said almost 60,000 people have been given operations more quickly in treatment centres run jointly by the NHS and the private sector.