‘About as surprising as snow in January’ is how Grant Rex, Care UK’s Managing Director of Secondary Care has described a new report from the Department of Health that shows the number of patients choosing independent sector treatment centres or hospitals for their NHS treatment has grown dramatically just 18 months. In the East Midlands almost one in ten NHS appointments are for these independently run hospitals.
Care UK runs ten of the independent treatment centres and Dr Rex has seen patient demand for operations at his hospitals soaring. He said: “When the Government’s ‘Choose and Book’ system was made available for prospective patients at Care UK’s Barlborough centre, in the first few weeks, we saw the number of appointments jumped by 57%. These have now stabilized at around 30% higher than before patients had the choice.”
Staff at the centre believe that this popularity is driven by three key factors – the complete absence of hospital acquired infections such as MRSA or C. difficile, word of mouth recommendations from patients who are impressed with the way they were cared for and shorter waiting times for key operations.
Former nurse Julie Brett from Lincolnshire is just one of the patients who are happy to commend the service received from Care UK when she had two replacement knee operations at their Barlborough hospital near Chesterfield. She said: “I wouldn’t have got better care had I paid for it myself, the cleanliness and the care were fantastic. You are treated as an individual, not a number. All the staff are fantastic and I had such good fun there which certainly makes recovery a lot better and easier.”
Independent sector treatment centres provide procedures ranging from hip replacements to chemotherapy exclusively for NHS patients. Care UK runs ten of these across the country and has seen a steady increase in the number of NHS patients and GPs actively seeking out their services.
The Department of Health research showed that the number of outpatient appointments booked at all the independent sector hospitals jumped from 8,928 in April 2008 to 26,733 in November last year.