Private Heart Hospital offers 95-bed deal to Cardiac Tsar

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The Independent Online

Richard Needham, the former Conservative minister who now chairs the £40m Heart Hospital in central London, will today make an offer to the so-called Cardiac Tsar to ease the crisis in heart treatment.

Mr Needham will write to Roger Boyle, the National Heart director, suggesting that the National Health Service strikes a deal to use the Heart Hospital's 95 beds and four operating theatres to ease waiting lists for cardiac surgery.

The offer is likely to provoke much interest in the NHS, especially as Alan Milburn, the health secretary, has promised urgent action for a war on heart disease, which is estimated to kill 110,000 people a year.

Mr Milburn has said he wants to cut this figure by 40 per cent in the next 10 years, and has said he is willing to look at any initiatives that could achieve that goal. In his letter to Dr Boyle, Mr Needham says that to meet those targets requires "a commitment from the cardiac profession, NHS and private sector, to work together in partnership". He added that the most immediate targets for cutting waiting lists for operations this year cannot be achieved without private sector help.

The letter is timed to coincide with the British Cardiac Society's annual conference this week in Glasgow. It is part of a trend for the private sector to become more involved in mainstream treatment, not merely treating private patients who want to jump NHS waiting lists. Last month Chai Patel, chief executive of nursing homes group, Westminster Healthcare, suggested that nursing homes could care for up to a fifth of the patients currently in NHS hospital beds.

However, Mr Needham's move would place a private hospital at the centre of one of the critical areas of clinical care in the UK.

The Heart Hospital is able to devote spare capacity partially because of its long-running dispute with PPP, the health insurance company owned by AXA, which has refused to put the hospital on its panel of places for heart treatment for normal PPP clients.

The Heart Hospital has claimed this is a commercial decision influenced by the fact that PPP is a partner in two rival heart treatment hospitals, situated only a few hundred yards from the Heart Hospital.