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RCS response to NHS trust deal with private hospital for all planned orthopaedic work

26 Oct 2018

Responding to the Health Service Journal report that University Hospitals Plymouth Trust has entered into an 18-month partnership with Care UK to provide all elective orthopaedic work for the Trust in one of its facilities, a spokesperson for the Royal College of Surgeons said:
“Waiting times for surgery at University Hospitals Plymouth Trust are some of the worst in England. This partnership will be good news for patients who will hopefully now receive their treatment sooner. 
“Almost one in three (29.4%) NHS-funded knee replacements, and almost one in five (19.7%) hip replacements were carried out by the independent sector in 2016-2017.1 It is not new for NHS trusts to rely on private providers to pick up the slack. However, the deal this Trust has struck is significant as it involves moving all of their elective orthopaedics to the private sector for an extended period of time.
“Although we recognise the need to use the private sector to enable patients to be treated in a timely manner, it does risk pulling resources away from the NHS. University Hospitals Plymouth Trust must assure itself that, with some of its surgeons and anaesthetists working outside of the hospital, it will be able to maintain adequate emergency care - especially during the busy winter period. The Trust must also assure itself of the quality of operations being done by a private hospital on its behalf. 
“Moving all elective orthopaedic operations to a private company may also have a negative impact on surgical trainees at the Trust.  Training opportunities are often not available in the independent sector and the Trust will need to consider how it will help ensure any trainees are able to undertake enough operations to meet their training requirements.
“The fact that this Trust has struck such a significant partnership with a private company underlines the importance of continuing to raise standards in the independent sector.
“The Government’s long-term plan must focus on creating the capacity that the NHS requires to meet demand rather than relying on any spare capacity in private hospitals.”

Update (22 November 2018): University Hospitals Plymouth Trust has since clarified that up to 75% of  adult elective orthopaedic surgery will be provided by Care UK. 

Notes to editors

2.    The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.
3.    For more information, please contact the RCS Press Office: Telephone: 020 7869 6047/6052/6229; email:; for out of hours media enquiries: 07966 486832.

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