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2001: NHS buys private hospital

The government has taken the unprecedented step of re-nationalising a private, specialist hospital.

The Department of Health (DoH) paid 27m for the luxury private Heart Hospital just off Harley Street in central London.

The hospital, which had recently had a 60m refit, will join the University College Hospital NHS Trust.

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."

But Geoff Martin, of the public sector workers union, Unison, said he wanted to know how many beds would be reserved for private patients.

"If this was the straightforward re-nationalisation of a 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," Mr Martin said.

The deal was signed after NHS chief executive Nigel Crisp concluded weeks of talks with the hospital's Singapore-based owners Parkway Healthcare.

They gave up the struggle to make it turn a profit when they could not attract enough patients.

The Heart Hospital is the first hospital to be re-nationalised since the foundation of the National Health Service.

Founded in 1857 it first became part of the NHS in 1947.

After falling into disuse in 1989 it was bought by a private consortium and re-opened in 1998.

The NHS will take over its staff of 162.

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

In Context
The purchase of the Heart Hospital followed on from a deal with the private sector in October 2000 under which Health Secretary Alan Milburn agreed to buy spare private sector beds for NHS patients.

In April 2002 it was revealed that NHS managers had held talks about nationalising Scotland's biggest private hospital, the HCI medical centre in Clydebank.


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