Private solution to NHS wait

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The Independent Online
HEART patients who have been waiting for surgery at a Manchester hospital for a year or more are to be taken to Glasgow for operations at a private hospital, it was announced yesterday.

The move is part of an initiative to speed up treatment for heart patients in the north-west of England and marks another stage in the growing partnerships between the National Health Service and the private sector.

Although it is not unusual for NHS patients to be treated in local private hospitals near their homes, few health authorities have purchased long-distance care in this way, largely because of inconvenience to patients and their families, and the health risks of travelling.

A spokesman for the North West Regional Health Authority, formed when Mersey and Manchester Regions joined forces earlier this year, said it was a 'one-off initiative' to give immediate treatment to patients who had been on the waiting list at Manchester Royal Infirmary for the longest.

'It will cost no more than it would to operate on them in an NHS hospital,' he said.

The 25 patients who all need coronary artery by-pass grafts will be given free transport to and from Glasgow with medical care as appropriate.

Labour's health spokeswoman, Dawn Primarolo, last night criticised the health authority's decision. 'This is a Trojan horse technique - an extreme example of creeping privatisation.' Mrs Primarolo said she intended to take up the matter with Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health.