Headlines: January 17th, 2005

Contracts worth 223 million pounds have been signed with independent sector suppliers to provide 55,000 more operations. The new services will be provided at treatment centres in the north west and midlands. Treatment will be funded by the NHS and will be free to patients.The centres will carry out relatively simple but highly demanded procedures ranging from general surgery, gynaecology, ophthalmology, through to orthopaedics and joint replacements. Because the procedures do not require complex facilities they are a cost effective alternative to building new expensive operating theatres. Although some staff will move the from the NHS, the majority will come from elsewhere. The first of the new centres will come into service shortly and the programme will by completed in 2006.

Treatment centres provided by the independent sector complement the NHS treatment centre programme. 28 NHS centres are already open and a further 18 are under development. In total, there will be around 80 treatment centres treating NHS patients by the end of 2005. The combined programme will provide 250,000 operations per year, giving much-needed extra capacity to treat new patients and help reduce pressure on existing NHS facilities as well as giving patients a choice of where they are treated.