Private SA health company contracted to treat NHS patients

A South Africa-based private health company has been awarded a contract by the government to treat certain NHS patients where waiting lists are longest, it has been announced today.

Health Secretary John Reid revealed today that Network Healthcare Holdings Limited (Netcare), which claims to run the African continent's largest private hospital and doctor network, will operate two mobile treatment centres to tackle the backlog of patients awaiting treatment for cataracts.

The two mobile treatment centres are expected to move around England, performing 41,600 cataract operations over the next five years, the health secretary said.

The contract with Netcare has been negotiated at a price nearly 10% below comparable NHS costs. The company will also provide all new clinical staff for the mobile units, Dr Reid said.

"Today's contract completion represents a very good deal for the taxpayer and I am delighted that we were able to negotiate with the provider a deal which is significantly less than the current rate," John Reid said.

"Treatment centres also represent a cost-effective alternative to building new expensive theatres by allowing the local NHS to simply tap into a source of good value, high quality clinical resource and treat their patients in state of the art facilities."

The preferred bidders for contracts to set up and run two new NHS treatment centres in Southend and Nottingham have also been announced. They will focus on specialties where there is a high demand, such as hip replacements or cataract removals. The new centres will officially open next year.

These centres will supply an additional 168 staff to perform 12,300 extra procedures a year, providing a total of more than 39,000 operations per year for NHS patients.

The new mobile units will visit the South West Peninsula, Dorset and Somerset, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, Surrey and Sussex, Kent and Medway, Thames Valley, Cheshire and Merseyside, Cumbria and Lancashire and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Strategic Health Authorities.

Mr Reid claimed that all treatment centres, "whether they are run directly by the NHS or by independent companies on behalf of the NHS, will treat NHS patients and deliver quality care to NHS standards and principles" - treatment remained free at the point of use and delivered according to need, he added.


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